Part 5 out of 11
burned with an intolerable sense of humiliation. Was it partition,
or total loss, of her precious kingdom? In after years, she
designated this Christmas as the era when the "sceptre departed from
Judah;" but putting away the chagrin, and sealing the well of
bitterness in her heart, she exchanged holiday greetings, and
proudly wore her royal robes throughout the day, holding sternly off
the spectre, which grimly bided its time--the hour of her
Through the benevolent and compassionate efforts of Mr. and Mrs.
Singleton, some faint reflection of the outside world festivities
penetrated the dismal monotony of prison routine; and the hearts of
the inmates were softened and gladdened by kind tokens of
remembrance, that carried the thoughts of bearded convicts back to
Christmas carols in innocent youth, and to the mother's knees where
prayers were lisped.
Illness had secured to Beryl immunity from contact with her comrades
in misery, and except to visit the little chapel, she never left the
sheltering walls of her small comfortless room, grateful for the
unexpected boon of silent seclusion. Her Christmas greeting had been
little Dick's sweet lips kissing her cheek, as he deposited upon her
narrow bed the black and white shawl his mother had knitted, and a
box left by Miss Gordon on the previous day, which contained half a
dozen pretty handkerchiefs with mourning borders, some delicate
perfume and soaps, toilet brushes and a sachet.
An hour later, when Mrs. Singleton and her babies had gone to spend
the day with relatives in the city, Beryl went to the window, pushed
the sash up, and listened to the ringing of the Sabbath-school
bells, as every church beyond the river called its nursery to the
altar, to celebrate the day. The metallic clangor was mellowed by
distance, rising and falling like rhythmic waves, and the faint
echo, filtered through dense pine forests behind the penitentiary,
had the ghostly iteration of the Folge Fond.
A gaunt yellow kitten, with a faded red ribbon knotted about its
neck, and vicious, amber-colored eyes that were a perpetual
challenge, had fled from the tender mercies of Dick to the city of
refuge under Beryl's cot; and community of suffering had kindled an
attachment that now prompted the lesser waif to spring into the
girl's folded arms, and rub its head against her shoulder.
Mechanically Beryl's hand stroked the creature's ear, while it
purred softly under the caress; but suddenly its back curved into an
arch, the tail broadened, the purr became a growl. Had association
lifted the brute's instincts to the plane of human antipathies?
The warden had opened the door and quickly closed it, after ushering
in a tall figure, who wore an overcoat which was buttoned from
throat to knees. At sight of Mr. Dunbar, the cat plunged to the
floor, and sped away to the darkest corner under the iron bedstead.
"Good morning. I dare not utter here the greetings of the day,
because you would construe it into a heartless mockery."
He came forward hesitatingly, and she turned swiftly away, pressing
her face against the bars of the window, waving him back.
"Why will you persist in regarding as an enemy, the one person in
all the world who is most anxious to befriend you?"
Still no answer; only the repellent gesture warning him away.
"Will you allow me, this Christmas morning, to comfort myself in
some degree, by leaving here a few flowers to brighten your desolate
He held out a bouquet of rare and brilliant hothouse blossoms, whose
delicious fragrance had already pervaded the room. They stood side
by side, yet she shrank farther, and kept her face averted,
shivering perceptibly. Lifting one arm he drew down the sash to shut
out the freezing air.
"You are resolved neither to look at nor speak to me? So be it. At
least you must listen to me. You may not care to hear that I have
been absent, but perhaps it will interest you to know that I went in
search of the man for whose crime you are paying the penalty."
If he expected her to wince under the probe, her nerves were taut,
and she defied the steel; but the face she now turned fully to him
was so blanched by illness, so hopeless in its rigid calm, that he
felt a keen pain at his own heart.
"Prisoners, victims of justice, have, it seems, no privileges; else
my one request, my earnest prayer to be shielded from your presence,
might have protected me from this intrusion. Are you akin to
Parrhasius that you come to gloat over the agonies of a moral and
mental vivisection? The sight of suffering to which you have brought
a helpless woman, is scarcely the recompense I was taught to suppose
agreeable to a chivalrous Southern gentleman. If, wearing the red
livery of Justice, undue zeal for vengeance betrayed you into the
fatal mistake of trampling me into this horrible place, there might
be palliation; but for the brutal persistency with which you thrust
your tormenting presence upon me, not even heavenly charity could
possibly find pardon. Literally you are heaping insult upon awful
injury. Is it a refinement of cruelty that brings you here to watch
and analyze my suffering, as a biologist looks through lenses at an
insect he empales, or Pasteur scrutinizes the mortal throes of the
victims into whose veins he has injected poison?"
If she had drawn a lash across his face, it would not have stung
more keenly than her words, so expressive of detestation.
"Will you consider for a moment the possibility that other motives
actuate me; that ceaseless regret, remorse, if you choose, for a
terrible mistake, impels me to come here in the hope of making
"Such a supposition is as inconceivable as the idea of reparation.
When a reaper goes forth to his ripe harvest, his lawful labor, and
wantonly turns aside into a by-path, to try the edge of his sickle
on an humble, unoffending stalk that fights for life among the grass
and weeds, and struggles to get its head sufficiently in the
sunshine to bloom--when he cuts it off unopened, crushes it into the
sod, can he make reparation? Although it is neither bearded yellow
wheat, nor yet a black tare, it proved the temper of his blade; and
all the skill, all the science of universal humanity, cannot re-
erect the stem, cannot remove the stains, cannot unfold the bruised
petals. There are wrongs that all time will never repair. Your sword
of justice needs no whetting; one stroke has laid me low."
"I purpose to file it two-edged, in order to make no more mistakes.
Before long I shall cut down the real criminal, the principal, who
shall not escape, and for whom you shall not suffer."
"Then 'a life for a life' no longer satisfies? How many are
required? The law has need of a sacrificial stone wide as that of
the Aztecs. Is justice a'daughter of the horse-leech'?"
"So help me God--"
"Hush! Take not His name upon your lips. Men like you cannot afford
to credit the existence of a holy God. This is Christmas--at least
according to the almanac--now as a 'chivalrous Southern gentleman,'
will you grant me a very great favor if I humbly crave it? Ah,
noblesse oblige! you cannot deny me. I beg of you, then, leave me
instantly; come here no more. Never let me see your face again, or
hear your voice, except in the court-room, when I am tried for the
crime which you have told the world I committed. This boon is the
sole possible reparation left you."
She had clasped her hands so tightly, that the nails were bloodless,
and the fluttering in her white throat betrayed the throbbing of her
"You are afraid of me, because you dread my discovering your secret,
"You have done your worst. You have locked me away from a dying
mother; disgraced an innocent life; broken a girl's pure, happy
heart; what else is there to dread? Although a bird knows full well
when it has received its death wound, instinct drives it to flutter,
drag itself as far as possible from the gaze of the sportsman, and
gasp out its agony in some lonely place."
"When I hunt birds, and a partridge droops its wings, and hovers
almost at my feet, inviting capture, I know beyond all peradventure
that it is only love's ruse; that something she holds dearer than
her own life, is thereby screened, saved. You are guilty of a great
crime against yourself, you are submitting tacitly, consenting to an
awful doom, in order to spare and protect the real murderer."
He bent closer, watching breathlessly for some change in her white
stony face; but her sad eyes met his with no wavering of the lids,
and only her delicate nostrils dilated slightly. She raised her
locked hands, rested her lips a moment on her mother's ring, as if
drinking some needed tonic, and answered in the same low, quiet
"Then, prime minister of justice, set me free, and punish the
guilty. Who murdered General Darrington?"
"You have known from the beginning; and I intend to set you free,
when that cowardly miscreant has been secured. You would die to save
your lover; you, proud, brave, noble natured, would sacrifice your
precious life for that wretched, vile poltroon, who flees and leaves
you to suffer in his stead! Truly, there is no mystery so profound,
so complex, so subtle as a woman's heart. To die for his crimes,
were a happier fate than to sully your fair soul by alliance with
one so degraded; and, by the help of God, I intend to snatch you
He had put his hands for an instant upon her shoulders, and his
handsome face flushed, eloquent with the feeling that he no longer
cared to disguise, was so close to hers, that she felt his breath on
Swiftly, unerringly she comprehended everything; and the suddenness
of the discovery dazzled, awed her, as one might feel under the blue
flash of a dagger when thrust into one's clasp for novice fingers to
feel the edge. Was the weapon valued merely because of the
possibility of fleshing it in the heart of him who had darkened her
life? Did he understand as fully the marvellous change in the
beautiful face, that had lured him from his chapel tryst with his
betrothed? He was on the alert for signals of distress, of
embarrassment, of terror; but what meant the glad light that leaped
up in her eyes, the quick flush staining her wan cheek, the
triumphant smile curving lips that a moment before might have
belonged to Guercino's Mater Dolorosa, the relaxation of figure and
features, the unmistakable expression of intense relief that stole
into the countenance?
"Will you be so good as to tell me my lover's name, and where the
fox terriers of the law unearthed him?"
"I will tell you something which you do not already know; that I
have found a clue, that I shall hunt him out, hide, crouch where he
may; that here, where he sinned, he shall expiate his crime, and
that when your lover is hung, your name, your honor, shall be
vindicated. So much, Lennox Dunbar promises you, on his honor as a
"Words, vapid words! Empty, worthless as last year's nests. My
lover," she laughed scornfully, "is quite safe even from your
malevolence. If indeed 'one touch of nature makes the whole world
kin,' one might expect some pity from the guild of love swains; and
it augurs sadly for Miss Gordon's future, that the spell is so
His dark face reddened, lowered.
"If you please, we will keep Miss Gordon's name out of the
conversation, and hereafter when--"
"Enough! I shall keep her image in my grateful heart, the few
tedious months I have to live; and there seems indeed a sort of
poetic justice in the fact that the bride you covet, has become the
truest, tenderest friend of the hapless girl whom you are
prosecuting for murder."
"I forbid such insolent presumption! You shall not utter the name my
father gave me. It is holy as my baptism; it must be kept unsullied
for my lover's lips to fondle. This is your last visit here, for if
you dare to intrude again, I will demand protection from the warden.
I will bear no more."
As he looked at her, the witchery of her youthful loveliness,
heightened by the angry sparkle in her deep eyes, by the vivid
carnation of her curling lips, mastered him; and when he thought of
the brown-haired woman to whom he was pledged, he set his teeth
tight, to smother an execration. He moved toward the door, paused,
and came back.
"Will it comfort you to know that I suffer even more than you do;
that I am plunged into a fiercer purgatory than that to which I have
condemned you? I am devoured by regret; but I will atone. I came
here as your friend; I can never be less, and in defiance of your
hatred, I shall prove my sincerity. Because I bemoan my rash haste,
will you say good-bye kindly? Some day, perhaps, you will
He held out his hand, and his blue eyes lost their steely glitter,
filled with a prayer for pardon.
She picked up the bouquet which had fallen from the window sill to
the floor, and without hesitation put it into his fingers:
"I think I understand all that words could ever explain. My short
stream of life is very near the great ocean of rest. I have ceased
to struggle, ceased to hope; and since the end is so close, I wish
no active warfare even with those who wronged me most foully. If you
will spare me the sight of you, I will try to forget the added
misery of the visits you have forced upon me, and perhaps some of
the bitterness may die out. Take the flowers to Miss Gordon; leave
no trace to remind me of your persecution. We bear chastisement
because we must, but the sight of the rod renews the sting; so,
henceforth, I hope to see you no more. When we meet before our God,
I may have a new heart, swept clean of earthly hate, but until then-
He caught her fingers, crushed his lips against them, and walked
from the room, leaving the bouquet a shattered mass of perfume in
the middle of the floor.
Standing before Leon Gerome's tragic picture, and listening to the
sepulchral echo that floats down the arcade of centuries. "Ave,
Imperator, morituri te salutant," nineteenth century womanhood
frowns, and deplores the brutal depravity which alone explains the
presence of that white-veiled vestal band, whose snowy arms are
thrust in signal over the parapet of the bloody arena; yet fair
daughters of the latest civilization show unblushing flower faces
among the heaving mass of the "great unwashed" who crowd our court-
rooms--and listen to revolting details more repugnant to genuine
modesty, than the mangled remains in the Colosseum. The rosy thumbs
of Roman vestals were potent ballots in the Eternal City, and
possibly were thrown only in the scale of mercy; but having no voice
in verdicts, to what conservative motive may be ascribed the
presence of women at criminal trials? Are the children of Culture,
the heiresses of "all the ages", really more refined than the proud
old dames of the era of Spartacus?
Is the spectacle of mere physical torture, in gladiatorial combats,
or in the bloody precincts of plaza de toros, as grossly
demoralizing as the loathsome minutiae of heinous crimes upon which
legal orators dilate; and which Argus reporters, with magnifying
lenses at every eye, reproduce for countless newspapers, that serve
as wings for transporting moral dynamite to hearthstones and
nurseries all over our land? Is there a distinction, without a
difference, between police gazettes and the journalistic press?
If extremes meet, and the march of human progress be along no
asymtotic line, is the day very distant when we shall welcome the
Renaissance of that wisdom which two thousand years ago held its
august tribunal in the solemn hours of night, when darkness hid from
the Judges everything save well-authenticated facts? The supreme aim
of civil and criminal law being the conservation of national and
individual purity, to what shall we attribute the paradox presented
in its administration, whereby its temples become lairs of libel,
their moral atmosphere defiled by the monstrous vivisection of
parental character by children, the slaughter of family reputation,
the exhaustive analysis of every species of sin forbidden by the
Decalogue, and floods of vulgar vituperation dreadful as the
Apocalyptic vials? Can this generation
"--in the foremost files of time--"
afford to believe that a grim significance lurks in the desuetude of
typical judicial ermine?
Traditions of ante bellum custom proclaimed that "good society" in
the town of X--, formerly considered the precincts of courts as
unfit for ladies as the fetid air of morgues, or the surgical
instruments on dissecting tables; but the vanguard of cosmopolitan
freedom and progress had pitched tents in the old-fashioned place,
and recruited rapidly from the ranks of the invaded; hence it came
to pass, that on the second day of the murder trial, when the
preliminaries of jury empanelling had been completed, and all were
ready to launch the case, X--announced its social emancipation from
ancient canons of decorum, by the unwonted spectacle of benches
crowded with "ladies", whose silken garments were crushed against
the coarser fabrics of proletariat. Despite the piercing cold of a
morning late in February, the mass of human furnaces had raised the
temperature to a degree that encouraged the fluttering of fans, and
necessitated the order that no additional spectators should be
Viewed through the leaden haze of fearful anticipation, the horror
of the impending trial had seemed unendurable to the proud and
sensitive girl, whom the Sheriff placed on a seat fronting the sea
of curious faces, the battery of scrutinizing eyes turned on her
from the jury-box. Four months of dread had unnerved her, yet now
when the cruel actuality seized her in its iron grasp, that superb
strength which the inevitable lends to conscious innocence, so
steeled and fortified her, that she felt lifted to some lonely
height, where numbness eased her aching wounds.
Pallid and motionless, she sat like a statue, save for the slow
strokes of her right hand upon the red gold of her mother's ring;
and the sound of a man's voice reading a formula, seemed to echo
from an immeasurable distance. She had consented to, had
deliberately accepted the worst possible fate, and realized the
isolation of her lot; but for one thing she was not prepared, and
its unexpectedness threatened to shiver her calmness. Two women made
their way toward her: Dyce and Sister Serena. The former sat down in
the rear of the prisoner, the latter stood for a few seconds, and
her thin delicate hand fell upon the girl's shoulder. At sight of
the sweet, placid countenance below the floating white muslin veil,
Beryl's lips quivered into a sad smile; and as they shook hands she
"I believe even the gallows will not frighten you two from my side."
Sister Serena seated herself as close as possible, drew from her
pocket a gray woollen stocking, and began to knit. For an instant
Beryl's eyes closed, to shut in the sudden gush of grateful tears;
when she opened them, Mr. Churchill had risen:
"May it please the Court, Gentlemen of the Jury: If fidelity to duty
involved no sacrifice of personal feeling, should we make it the
touchstone of human character, value it as the most precious jewel
in the crown of human virtues? I were less than a man, immeasurably
less than a gentleman, were I capable of addressing you to-day, in
obedience to the behests of justice, and in fulfilment of the stern
requirements of my official position, without emotions of profound
regret, that implacable Duty, to whom I have sworn allegiance,
forces me to hush the pleading whispers of my pitying heart, to
smother the tender instincts of human sympathy, and to listen only
to the solemn mandate of those laws, which alone can secure to our
race the enjoyment of life, liberty and property. An extended
professional career has hitherto furnished me no parallel for the
peculiarly painful exigencies of this occasion; and an awful
responsibility scourges me with scorpion lash to a most unwelcome
task. When man crosses swords with man on any arena, innate pride
nerves his arm and kindles enthusiasm, but alas, for the man! be he
worthy the name, who draws his blade and sees before him a young,
helpless, beautiful woman, disarmed. Were it not a bailable offence
in the court of honor, if his arm fell palsied? Each of you who has
a mother, a wife, a lily browed daughter, put yourself in my place,
lend me your sympathy; and at least applaud the loyalty that
strangles all individuality, and renders me bound thrall of official
duty. Counsel for the defence has been repeatedly offered, nay,
pressed upon the prisoner, but as often persistently rejected; hence
the almost paralyzing repugnance with which I approach my theme.
"The Grand Jury of the county, at its last sitting, returned to this
court a bill of indictment, charging the prisoner at the bar with
the wilful, deliberate and premeditated murder of Robert Luke
Darrington, by striking him with a brass andiron. To this indictment
she has pleaded 'Not Guilty,' and stands before her God and this
community for trial. Gentlemen of the jury, you represent this
commonwealth, jealous of the inviolability of its laws, and by
virtue of your oaths, you are solemnly pledged to decide upon her
guilt or innocence, in strict accordance with the evidence that may
be laid before you. In fulfilling this sacred duty, you will, I feel
assured, be governed exclusively by a stern regard to the demands of
public justice. While it taxes our reluctant credulity to believe
that a crime so hideous could have been committed by a woman's hand,
could have been perpetrated without provocation, within the borders
of our peaceful community, nevertheless, the evidence we shall
adduce must inevitably force you to the melancholy conclusion that
the prisoner at the bar is guilty of the offence, with which she
stands charged. The indictment which you are about to try, charges
Beryl Brentano with the murder.
"In outlining the evidence which will be presented in support of
this indictment, I earnestly desire that you will give me your
dispassionate and undivided attention; and I call God to witness,
that disclaiming personal animosity and undue zeal for vengeance, I
am sorrowfully indicating as an officer of the law, a path of
inquiry, that must lead you to that goal where, before the altar of
Truth, Justice swings her divine scales, and bids Nemesis unsheathe
"On the afternoon of October the twenty-sixth, about three o'clock,
a stranger arrived in X--and inquired of the station agent what road
would carry her to 'Elm Bluff', the home of General Darrington;
assuring him she would return in time to take the north-bound train
at 7.15, as urgent business necessitated her return. Demanding an
interview with Gen'l Darrington, she was admitted, incognito, and
proclaimed herself his granddaughter, sent hither by a sick mother,
to procure a certain sum of money required for specified purposes.
That the interview was stormy, was characterized by fierce invective
on her part, and by bitter denunciation and recrimination on his, is
too well established to admit of question; and they parted
implacable foes, as is attested by the fact that he drove her from
his room through a rear and unfrequented door, opening into a flower
garden, whence she wandered over the grounds until she found the
gate. The vital import of this interview lies in the great stress
Gen'l Darrington placed upon the statement he iterated and
reiterated; that he had disinherited his daughter, and drawn up a
will bequeathing his entire estate to his step-son Prince.
"Miss Brentano did not leave X--at 7.15, though she had ample time
to do so, after quitting 'Elm Bluff'. She loitered about the station
house until nearly half-past eight, then disappeared. At 10 P.M. she
was seen and identified by a person who had met her at 'Elm Bluff',
crouching behind a tree near the road that led to that ill-fated
house, and when questioned regarding her presence there, gave
unsatisfactory answers. At half-past two o'clock she was next seen
hastening toward the station office, along the line of the railroad,
from the direction of the water tank, which is situated nearly a
mile north of town. Meanwhile an unusually severe storm had been
followed by a drenching rain, and the stranger's garments were wet,
when, after a confused and contradictory account of her movements,
she boarded the 3.05 train bound north.
"During that night, certainly after ten o'clock, Gen'l Darrington
was murdered. His vault was forced open, money was stolen, and most
significant of all, the WILL was abstracted. Criminal jurisprudence
holds that the absence of motive renders nugatory much weighty
testimony. In this melancholy cause, could a more powerful motive be
imagined than that which goaded the prisoner to dip her fair hands
in her grandfather's blood, in order to possess and destroy that
will, which stood as an everlasting barrier between her and the
estate she coveted?
"Crimes are referrible to two potent passions of the human soul;
malice, engendering thirst for revenge, and the insatiable lust of
money. If that old man had died a natural death, leaving the will he
had signed, his property would have belonged to the adopted son, to
whom he bequeathed it, and Mrs. Brentano and her daughter would have
remained paupers. Cut off by assassination, and with no record of
his last wishes in existence, the beloved son is bereft of his
legacy, and Beryl Brentano and her mother inherit the blood-bought
riches they covet. When arrested, gold coins and jewels identified
as those formerly deposited in Gen'l Darrington's vault, were found
in possession of the prisoner; and as if every emissary of fate were
armed with warrants for her detection, a handkerchief bearing her
initials, and saturated with the chloroform which she had
administered to her victim, was taken from the pillow, where his
honored gray head rested, when he slept his last sleep on earth.
Further analysis would insult your intelligence, and having very
briefly laid before you the intended line of testimony, I believe I
have assigned a motive for this monstrous crime, which must
precipitate the vengeance of the law, in a degree commensurate with
its enormity. Time, opportunity, motive, when in full accord,
constitute a fatal triad, and the suspicious and unexplainable
conduct of the prisoner in various respects, furnishes, in
connection with other circumstances of this case, the strongest
presumptive evidence of her guilt. These circumstances, far beyond
the realm of human volition, smelted and shaped in the rolling mills
of destiny, form the tramway along which already the car of doom
thunders; and when they shall have been fully proved to you, by
unassailable testimony, no alternative remains but the verdict of
guilty. Mournful as is the duty, and awfully solemn the necessity
that leaves the issue of life and death in your hands, remember,
gentlemen, Curran's immortal words: 'A juror's oath is the
adamantine chain that binds the integrity of man to the throne of
No trace of emotion was visible on the prisoner's face, except at
the harsh mention of her mother's name; when a shudder was
perceptible, as in one where dentist's steel pierces a sensitive
nerve. In order to avoid the hundreds of eyes that stabbed her like
merciless probes, her own had been raised and fixed upon a portion
of the cornice in the room where a family of spiders held busy camp;
but a fascination song resisted, finally drew their gaze down to a
seat near the bar, and she encountered the steady, sorrowful regard
of Mr. Dunbar.
Two months had elapsed since the Christmas morning on which she had
rejected his floral offering, and during that weary season of
waiting, she had refused to see any visitors except Dyce and Sister
Serena; resolutely denying admittance to Miss Gordon. She knew that
he had been absent, had searched for some testimony in New York, and
now meeting his eyes, she saw a sudden change in their expression--a
sparkle, a smile of encouragement, a declaration of success. He
fancied he understood the shadow of dread that drifted over her
face; and she realized at that instant, that of all foes, she had
most to apprehend from the man who she knew loved her with an
unreasoning and ineradicable fervor. How much had he discovered? She
could defy the district solicitor, the judge, the jury; but only one
method of silencing the battery that was ambushed in those gleaming
blue eyes presented itself. To extinguish his jealousy, by removing
the figment of a rival, might rob him of the motive that explained
his persistent pursuit of the clue she had concealed; but it would
simultaneously demolish, also, the barrier that stretched between
Miss Gordon's happy heart and the bitter waves of a cruel
disappointment. If assured that her own affection was unpledged,
would the bare form and ceremonial of honor bind his allegiance to
his betrothed? Absorbed in these reflections, the prisoner became
temporarily oblivious of the proceedings; and it was not until
Sister Serena touched her arm, that she saw the vast throng was
watching her, waiting for some reply. The Judge repeated his
"Is it the desire of the prisoner to answer the presentation of the
prosecution? Having refused professional defence, you now have the
option of addressing the Court."
"Let the prosecution proceed."
There was no quiver in her voice, as cold, sweet and distinct it
found its way to the extremity of the wide apartment; yet therein
lurked no defiance. She resumed her seat, and her eyes sank, until
the long black fringes veiled their depths. Unperceived, Judge Dent
had found a seat behind her, and leaning forward he whispered:
"Will you permit me to speak for you?"
"But it cuts me to the heart to see you so forsaken, so helpless."
"God is my helper; He will not forsake me."
The first witness called and sworn was Doctor Ledyard, the physician
who for many years had attended General Darrington; and who
testified that when summoned to examine the body of deceased, on the
morning of the inquest, he had found it so rigid that at least eight
hours must have elapsed since life became extinct. Had discovered no
blood stains, and only two contusions, one on the right temple,
where a circular black spot was conspicuous, and a bluish bruise
over the region of the heart. He had visited deceased on the morning
of previous day, and he then appeared much better, and almost
relieved of rheumatism and pains attributable to an old wound in the
right knee. The skull had not been fractured by the blow on the
temple, but witness believed it had caused death; and the andiron,
which he identified as the one found on the floor close to the
deceased, was so unusually massive, he was positive that if hurled
with any force, it would produce a fatal result.
Mr, Churchill: "Did you at that examination detect any traces of
"There was an odor of chloroform very perceptible when we lifted the
hair to examine the skull; and on searching the room, we found a
vial which had contained chloroform, and was beside the pillow,
where a portion had evidently leaked out."
"Could death have occurred in consequence of inhaling that
"If so, the deceased could never have risen, and would have been
found in his bed; moreover, the limbs were drawn up, and bent into a
position totally inconsistent with any theory of death produced by
anaesthetics; and the body was rigid as iron."
The foregoing testimony was confirmed by that of Doctor Cranmar, a
resident physician, who had been summoned by the Coroner to assist
Doctor Ledyard in the examination, reported formally at the inquest.
"Here, gentlemen of the jury, is the fatal weapon with which a
woman's hand, supernaturally nerved in the struggle for gain, struck
down, destroyed a venerable old man, an honored citizen, whose gray
hairs should have shielded him from the murderous assault of a
mercenary adventuress. Can she behold without a shudder, this tell-
tale instrument of her monstrous crime?"
High above his head, Mr. Churchill raised the old-fashioned andiron,
and involuntarily Beryl glanced at the quaint brass figure, cast in
the form of a unicorn, with a heavy ball surmounting the horn.
Sullen, crestfallen and woe-begone was the demeanor of the old
negro, who had been brought vi et armis by a constable, from the
seclusion of a corner of the "Bend Plantation", where he had
secreted himself, to avoid the shame of bearing testimony against
his mistress' child. When placed on the witness stand, he crossed
his arms over his chest, planted his right foot firmly in advance,
and fixed his eyes on the leather strings that tied his shoes.
After some unimportant preliminaries, the District Solicitor asked:
"When did you first see the prisoner, who now sits before you?"
"When she come to our house, the evening before ole Marster died."
"You admitted her to your Master's presence?"
"I never tuck no sech libberties. He tole me to let her in."
"You carried her to his room?"
"About what time of the day was it?"
"Gen'l Darrington always dined at three o'clock. Was it before or
"How long was the prisoner in the General's room?"
"Did she leave the house by the front door, or the side door?"
"Can't say. Didn't see her when she come out."
"About how long was she in the house?"
"I totes no watch, and I never had no luck guessing. I'm shore to
"Was it one hour or two?"
"Mebbe more, mebbe less."
"Where were you during that visit?"
"Feedin' my game pullets in the backyard."
"Did you hear any part of the conversation between the prisoner and
"No, sir! I'm above the meanness of eavesdrapping."
"How did you learn that she was the granddaughter of Gen'l
"Miss Angerline, the white 'oman what mends and sews, come to the
back piazer, and beckoned me to run there. She said ther must be a
'high ole fracas', them was her words, agoin' on in Marster's room,
for he was cussin' and swearin', and his granddaughter was jawing
back very vicious. Sez I, 'Who'? Sez she, 'His granddaughter; that
is Ellice's chile'. Sez I, 'How do you know so much'? Sez she, 'I
was darning them liberry curtains, and I couldn't help hearing the
wrangle'. Sez I, 'You picked a oncommon handy time to tackle them
curtains; they must be mighty good to cure the ear-itch'. She axed
me if I didn't see the family favor in the 'oman's face; and I tole
her no, but I would see for myself. Sez she, to me, 'No yow won't,
for the Gen'l is in a tearing rage, and he's done drove her out, and
kicked and slammed the doors. She's gone.'"
"Then you did not see her?"
"I went to the front piazer, and I seen her far down the lawn, but
Marster rung his bell so savage, I had to run back to him."
"Did he tell you the prisoner was his granddaughter?"
"Did you mention the fact to him?"
"I wouldn't 'a dared to meddle with his fambly bizness!"
"He appeared very angry and excited?"
"He 'peard to want some ole Conyyac what was in the sideboard, and I
brung the bottle to him."
"Do you remember whether his vault in the wall was open, when you
answered the bell?"
"I didn't notice it."
"Where did you sleep that night?"
"On a pallet in the middle passage, nigh the star steps."
"Was that your usual custom?"
"No, sir. But the boy what had been sleepin' in the house while ole
Marster was sick, had gone to set up with his daddy's corpse, and I
tuck his place."
"Did you hear any unusual noise during the night?"
"Only the squalling of the pea-fowul what was oncommon oneasy, and
the thunder that was ear-splitting. One clap was so tremenjous it
raised me plum off'en the pallet, and jarred me to my backbone, as
if a cannon had gone off close by."
"Now, Bedney, state carefully all the circumstances under which you
found your master the next morning; and remember you are on your
oath, to speak the truth, and all the truth."
"He was a early riser, and always wanted his shavin' water promp'.
When his bell didn't ring, I thought the storm had kep' him awake,
and he was having a mornin' nap, to make up for lost time. The clock
had struck eight, and the cook said as how the steak and chops was
as dry as a bone from waitin', and so I got the water and went to
Marster's door. It was shet tight, and I knocked easy. He never
answered; so I knocked louder; and thinkin' somethin' was shorely
wrong, I opened the door--"
"Go on. What did you find?"
"Mars Alfred, sir, it's very harryfyin to my feelins."
"Go on. You are required to state all you saw, all you know."
Bedney drew back his right foot, advanced his left. Took out his
handkerchief, wiped his face and refolded his arms.
"My Marster was layin' on the rug before the fireplace, and his
knees was all drawed up. His right arm, was stretched out, so--and
his left hand was all doubled up. I know'd he was dead, before I
tetched him, for his face was set; and pinched and blue. I reckon I
hollered, but I can't say, for the next thing I knowed, the horsler
and the cook, and Miss Angerline, and Dyce, my ole 'oman, and Gord
knows who all, was streamin' in and out and screamin'."
"What was the condition of the room?"
"The front window was up, and the blinds was flung wide open, and a
cheer was upside clown close to it. The red vases what stood on the
fire-place mantle was smashed on the carpet, and the handi'on was
close to Marster's right hand. The vault was open, and papers was
strowed plentiful round on the floor under it. Then the neighburs
and the Doctor, and the Crowner come runnin' in, and I sot down by
the bed and cried like a chile. Pretty soon they turned us all out
and hilt the inquess."
"You do not recollect any other circumstance?"
"The lamp on the table was burnin'--and ther' wan't much oil left in
it. I seen Miss Angerline blow it out, after the Doctor come."
"Who found the chloroform vial?"
"Did you hear any name mentioned as that of the murderer?"
"Miss Angerline tole the Crowner, that ef the will was missin',
Gen'l Darrington's granddaughter had stole it. They two, with some
other gentleman, sarched the vault, and Miss Angerline said
everything was higgledy piggledy and no will there."
"You testified before the Coroner?"
"Why did you not give him the handkerchief you found?"
"I didn't have it then."
"When and where did you get it? Be very careful now."
For the first time Bedney raised his eyes toward the place where
Dyce sat near the prisoner, and he hesitated. He took some tobacco
from his vest pocket, stowed it away in the hollow of his cheek, and
re-crossed his arms.
"When Marster was dressed, and they carried him out to the drawing-
room, Dyce was standin' cryin' by the fireplace, and I went to the
bed, and put my hand under the bolster, where Marster always kep'
his watch and his pistol. The watch was ther' but no pistol; and
just sorter stuffed under the pillow case--was, a hank'cher. I tuk
the watch straight to the gentlemen in the drawin'-room, and they
come back and sarched for the pistol, and we foun' it layin' in its
case in the table draw'. Of all the nights in his life, ole Marster
had forgot to lay his pistol handy."
"Never mind about the pistol. What became of the handkerchief?"
"When I picked it up, an injun-rubber stopper rolled out, and as
ther' wan't no value in a hank'cher, I saw no harm in keepin' it--
for a'mento of ole Marster's death."
"You knew it was a lady's handkerchief."
"No, sir! I didn't know it then; and what's more, I don't know it
"Is not this the identical handkerchief you found?"
"Cant say. 'Dentical is a ticklish trap for a pusson on oath. It do
look like it, to be shore; but two seed in a okrey pod is ezactly
alike, and one is one, and t'other is t'other."
"Look at it. To the best of your knowledge and belief it is the
identical handkerchief you found on Gen'l Darrington's pillow?"
"What I found had red specks sewed in the border, and this seems
jest like it; but I don't sware to no dentical--'cause I means to be
kereful; and I will stand to the aidge of my oath; but--Mars Alfred-
-don't shove me over it."
"Can't you read?"
"No, sir; I never hankered after book-larnin' tomfoolery, and other
"You know your A B C's?"
"No more 'n a blind mule."
As the solicitor took from the table in front of the jury box, the
embroidered square of cambric, and held it up by two corners, every
eye in the court-room fastened upon it; and a deadly faintness
seized the prisoner, whitening lips that hitherto had kept their
"Gentlemen of the jury, if the murdered man could stand before you,
for one instant only, his frozen finger would point to the fatal
letters which destiny seems to have left as a bloody brand. Here in
indelible colors are wrought 'B. B.'!--Beryl Brentano. Do you
wonder, gentlemen, that when this overwhelming evidence of her guilt
came into my possession, compassion for a beautiful woman was
strangled by supreme horror, in the contemplation of the depravity
of a female monster? If these crimson letters were gaping wounds,
could their bloody lips more solemnly accuse yonder blanched,
shuddering, conscience-stricken woman of the sickening crime of
murdering her aged, infirm grandfather, from whose veins she drew
the red tide that now curdles at her heart?"
As the third day of the trial wore away, the dense crowd in the
court-room became acquainted with the sensation of having been
unjustly defrauded of the customary public peruisite; because the
monotonous proceedings were entirely devoid of the spirited verbal
duels, the microscopic hair splitting, the biting sarcasms of
opposing counsel, the brow-beating of witnesses, the tenacious
wrangling over invisible legal points, which usually vary and spice
the routine and stimulate the interest of curious spectators. When a
spiritless fox disdains to double, and stands waiting for the
hounds, who have only to rend it, hunters feel cheated, and deem it
To the impatient spectators, it appeared a very tame, one-sided, and
anomalous trial, where like a slow stream the evidences of guilt
oozed, and settled about the prisoner, who challenged the
credibility of no witness, and waived all the privileges of cross-
examination. Now and then, the audience criticised in whispers the
"undue latitude" allowed by the Judge, to the District Solicitor;
but their "exceptions" were informal, and the prosecution received
no serious or important rebuff.
Was the accused utterly callous, or paralyzed by consciousness of
her crime; or biding her time for a dramatic outburst of vindicating
testimony? To her sensitive nature, the ordeal of sitting day after
day to be stared at by a curious and prejudiced public, was more
torturing than the pangs of Marsyas; and she wondered whether a
courageous Roman captive who was shorn of his eyelids, and set under
the blistering sun of Africa, suffered any more keenly; but
motionless, apparently impassive as a stone mask, on whose features
pitiless storms beat in vain, she bore without wincing the agony of
her humiliation. Very white and still, she sat hour by hour with
downcast eyes, and folded hands; and those who watched most closely
could detect only one change of position; now and then she raised
her clasped hands, and rested her lips a moment on the locked
fingers, then dropped them wearily on her lap.
Even when a juryman asked two searching questions of a witness, she
showed no sign of perturbation, and avoided meeting the eyes in the
jury-box, as though they belonged to basilisks. Was it only three
days since the beginning of this excruciating martyrdom of soul; and
how much longer could she endure silently, and keep her reason?
At times, Sister Serena's hand forsook the knitting, to lay a soft,
caressing touch of encouragement and sympathy on the girl's
shoulder; and Dyce's burning indignation vented itself in frequent
audible grating of her strong white teeth. So passed Monday,
Tuesday, Wednesday, in the examination of witnesses who
recapitulated all that had been elicited at the preliminary
investigation; and each nook and cranny of recollection in the mind
of Anthony Burk, the station agent; of Belshazzer Tatem, the lame
gardener; of lean and acrid Miss Angeline, the seamstress, was
illuminated by the lurid light of Mr. Churchill's adroit
interrogation. Thus far, the prosecution had been conducted by the
District Solicitor, with the occasional assistance of Mr. Wolverton,
who, in conjunction with Mr. Dunbar, had appeared as representative
of the Darrington estate, and its legal heir, Prince; and when court
adjourned on Wednesday, the belief was generally entertained that no
defence was possible; and that at the last moment, the prisoner
would confess her crime, and appeal to the mercy of the jury. As the
deputy sheriff led his prisoner toward the rear entrance, where
stood the dismal funereal black wagon in which she was brought from
prison to court, Judge Dent came quickly to meet her.
"My niece, Miss Gordon, could not, of course, come into the court-
room, but she is here in the library, with her aunt, and desires to
see you for a moment?"
"Tell her I am grateful for her kind motives, but I wish to see no
"For your own sake, consider the--ah! here is my niece."
"I hope you need no verbal assurance of my deep sympathy, and my
constant prayers," said Leo, taking one passive hand between hers,
and pressing it warmly.
"Miss Gordon, I am comforted by your compassion, and by your
unwavering confidence in a stranger whom your townsmen hold up as a
'female monster'. Because I so profoundly realize how good you are,
I am unwilling that you should identify yourself with my hopeless
cause. My sufferings will soon be over, and then I want no shadowy
reflex cast upon the smiling blue sky of your future. I have nothing
more to lose, save the burden of a life--that I shall be glad to lay
down; but you--! Be careful, do not jeopardize your beautiful dream
"Why do you persist in rejecting the overtures of those who could
assist, who might successfully defend you? I beg of you, consent to
receive and confer with counsel, even to-night."
"You will never understand why I must not, till the earth gives up
her dead. You tremble, because only one more link can be added to
the chain that is coiling about my neck, and that link is the
testimony of the man whose name you expect to bear. Miss Gordon"--
she stooped closer, and whispered slowly: "Do not upbraid your
lover; be tender, cling to him; and afford me the consolation of
knowing that the unfortunate woman you befriended, and trusted, cast
not even a fleeting shadow between your heart and his. Pray for me,
that I may be patient and strong. God bless you."
Turning swiftly, she hurried on to the officer, who had courteously
withdrawn a few yards distant. As he opened the door of the wagon,
he handed her a loosely folded sheet of paper.
"I promised to deliver your answer as soon as possible."
By aid of the red glow, burning low in the western sky, she read:
"Mr. Dunbar requests that for her own sake, Miss Brentano will grant
him an interview this evening."
"My answer must necessarily be verbal. Say that I will see no one."
To the solitude and darkness of prison she fled for relief, as into
some merciful sheltering arms; and not even the loving solicitude of
Mrs. Singleton was permitted to penetrate her seclusion, or share
her dreary vigil. Another sleepless night dragged its leaden hours
to meet the dawn, bringing no rest to the desolate soul, who
silently grappled with fate, while every womanly instinct shuddered
at the loathsome degradation forced upon her. Face downward on her
hard, narrow cot, she recalled the terrible accusations, the
opprobrious epithets, and tearless, convulsive sobs of passionate
protest shook her from head to foot.
Tortured with indignation and shame, at the insults heaped upon her,
yet sternly resolved to endure silently, these nights were veritable
stations along her Via Dolorosa; and fortified her for the daily
flagellation in front of the jury-box.
On Thursday a slow, sleeting rain enveloped the world in a gray
cowl, bristling with ice needles; yet when Judge Parkman took his
seat at nine o'clock, there was a perceptible increase in the living
mass, packed in every available inch of space.
For the first time, Mr. Dunbar's seat between his colleagues was
vacant; and Mr. Churchill and Mr. Wolverton were conversing in an
Clad in mourning garments, and with a long crape veil put back from
her face, the prisoner was escorted to her accustomed place; and
braced by a supreme effort for the critical hour, which she felt
assured was at hand, her pale set features gleamed like those of a
marble statue shrouded in black.
Called to the stand, Simon Frisby testified that "he was telegraph
operator, and night train despatcher for railway in X--. On October
the twenty-sixth, had just gone on duty at 8 P.M. at the station,
when prisoner came in, and sent a telegram to New York. A copy of
that message had been surrendered to the District Solicitor. Witness
had remained all night in his office, which adjoined the ladies'
waiting-room, and his attention having been attracted by the unusual
fact that it was left open and lighted, he had twice gone to the
door and looked in, but saw no one. Thought the last inspection was
about two o'clock, immediately after he had sent a message to the
conductor on train No. 4. Saw prisoner when she came in, a half hour
later, and heard the conversation between her and Burk, the station
agent. Was very positive prisoner could not have been in the ladies'
waiting-room during the severe storm."
Mr. Churchill read aloud the telegram addressed to Mrs. Ignace
Brentano: "Complete success required delay. All will be
satisfactory. Expect me Saturday. B. B."
He commented on its ambiguous phraseology, sent the message to the
jury for inspection, and resumed his chair.
Sister Serena's knitting fell from her fingers; Dyce groaned
audibly, and Judge Dent, sitting quite near, uttered a heavy sigh.
The statue throbbed into life, drew herself proudly up; and with a
haughty poise of the head, her grand eloquent gray eyes looked up at
the witness, and for the first time during the trial bore a
challenge. For fully a moment, eye met eye, soul looked into soul,
with only a few feet of space dividing prisoner from witness; and as
the girl scanned the dark, resolute, sternly chiselled face, cold,
yet handsome as some faultless bronze god, a singular smile unbent
her frozen lips, and Judge Dent and Sister Serena wondered what the
scarcely audible ejaculation meant:
"At the mercy of Tiberius!"
No faintest reflection of the fierce pain at his heart could have
been discerned on that non-committal countenance; and as he turned
to the jury, his swart magnetic face appeared cruelly hard,
"I first saw the prisoner at 'Elm Bluff', on the afternoon previous
to Gen'l Darrington's death. When I came out of the house, she was
sitting bareheaded on the front steps, fanning herself with her hat,
and while I was untying my horse, she followed Bedney into the
library. The blinds were open and I saw her pass the window, walking
in the direction of the bedroom."
Mr. Churchill: "At that time did you suspect her relationship to
your client, Gen'l Darrington?"
"I did not."
"What was the impression left upon your mind?"
"That she was a distinguished stranger, upon some important errand."
"She excited your suspicions at once?"
"Nothing had occurred to justify suspicion. My curiosity was
aroused. Several hours later I was again at 'Elm Bluff' on legal
business, and found Gen'l Darrington much disturbed in consequence
of an interview with the prisoner, who, he informed me, was the
child of his daughter, whom he had many years previous disowned and
disinherited. In referring to this interview, his words were: 'I was
harsh to the girl, so harsh that she turned upon me, savage as a
strong cub defending a crippled, helpless dam. Mother and daughter
know now that the last card has been played; for I gave the girl
distinctly to understand, that at my death Prince would inherit
every iota of my estate, and that my will had been carefully written
in order to cut them off without a cent.'"
"You were led to infer that Gen'l Darrington had refused her
application for money?"
"There was no mention of an application for money, hence I inferred
"During that conversation, the last which Gen'l Darrington held on
earth, did he not tell you he was oppressed by an awful presentiment
connected with his granddaughter?"
"His words were: 'Somehow I am unable to get rid of the strange,
disagreeable presentiment that girl let behind her as a farewell
legacy. She stood there at the glass door, and raised her hand:
'Gen'l Darrington, when you lie down to die, may God have more mercy
on your poor soul, than you have shown to your suffering child.'
"I advised him to sleep off the disagreeable train of thought, and
as I bade him good night, his last words were:
"'I shall write to Prince to come home.'"
"What do you know concerning the contents of your client's will?"
"The original will was drawn up by my father in 187-, but last May,
Gen'l Darrington required me to re-write it, as he wished to
increase the amount of a bequest to a certain charitable
institution. The provisions of the will were, that with the
exception of various specified legacies, his entire estate, real and
personal, should be given to his stepson Prince; and it was
carefully worded, with the avowed intention of barring all claims
that might be presented by Ellice Brentano or her heirs."
"Do you recollect any allusion to jewelry?"
"One clause of the will set aside a case of sapphire stones, with
the direction that whenever Prince Darrington married, they should
be worn by the lady as a bridal present from him."
"Would you not deem it highly incompatible with all you know of the
Gen'l's relentless character, that said sapphires and money should
have been given to the prisoner?"
"My surmises would be irrelevant and valueless to the Court; and
facts, indisputable facts, are all that should be required of
"When and where did you next see the prisoner?"
Cold, crisp, carefully accentuated, his words fell like lead upon
the ears of all present, whose sympathies were enlisted for the
desolate woman; and as he stood, tall, graceful, with one hand
thrust within his vest, the other resting easily on the back of the
bench near him, his clear cut face so suggestive of metallic
medallions, gave no more hint of the smouldering flame at his heart
than the glittering ice crown of Eiriksjokull betrays the fierce
lava tides beating beneath its frozen crust.
"At 10 o'clock on the same night, I saw the prisoner on the road
leading from town to 'Elm Bluff', and not farther than half a mile
from the cedar bridge spanning the 'branch', at the foot of the hill
where the iron gate stands."
"She was then going in the direction of 'Elm Bluff?'"
"She was sitting on the ground, with her head leaning against a pine
tree, but she rose as I approached."
"As it was at night, is there a possibility of your having mistaken
some one else for the prisoner?"
"None whatever. She wore no hat, and the moon shone full on her
"Did you not question her about her presence there, at such an
"I asked: 'Madam, you seem a stranger; have you lost your way?' She
answered, 'No, sir.' I added: 'Pardon me, but having seen you at
"Elm Bluff" this afternoon, I thought it possible you had missed the
road.' She made no reply, and I rode on to town."
"She betrayed so much trepidation and embarrassment, that your
suspicion was at once aroused?"
"She evinced neither trepidation nor embarrassment. Her manner was
haughty and repellent, as though designed to rebuke impertinence.
Next morning, when informed of the peculiar circumstances attending
Gen'l Darrington's death, I felt it incumbent upon me to communicate
to the magistrate the facts which I have just narrated."
"An overwhelming conviction of the prisoner's guilt impelled you to
demand her arrest?"
"Overwhelming conviction rarely results from merely circumstantial
evidence, but a combination of accusing circumstances certainly
pointed to the prisoner; and following their guidance, I am
responsible for her arrest and detention for trial. To the scrutiny
of the Court I have submitted every fact that influenced my action,
and the estimate of their value decided by the jurymen, must either
confirm the cogency of my reasoning, or condemn my rash fallibility.
Having under oath conscientiously given all the evidence in my
possession, that the prosecution would accept or desire, I now
respectfully request, that unless the prisoner chooses to exercise
her right of cross-examination, my colleagues of the prosecution,
and his Honor, will grant me a final discharge as witness."
Turning toward Beryl, Judge Parkman said:
"It is my duty again to remind you, that the cross-examination of
witnesses is one of the most important methods of defence; as
thereby inaccuracies of statement regarding time, place, etc., are
often detected in criminal prosecutions, which otherwise might
remain undiscovered. To this invaluable privilege of every
defendant, I call your attention once more. Will you cross-question
the witness on the stand?"
Involuntarily her eyes sought those of the witness, and despite his
locked and guarded face, she read there an intimation that vaguely
disquieted her. She knew that the battle with him must yet be
"I waive the right."
"Then, with the consent of the prosecuting counsel, witness is
discharged, subject to recall should the necessities of rebuttal
"By agreement with my colleagues, I ask for final discharge, subject
to your Honor's approval."
"If in accordance with their wishes, the request is granted."
The clock on the turret struck one, the hour of adjournment, and ere
recess was declared, Mr. Churchill rose.
"Having now proved by trustworthy and unquestioned witnesses, a dark
array of facts, which no amount of additional testimony could either
strengthen, or controvert, the prosecution here rest their case
before the jury for inspection; and feeling assured that only one
conclusion can result, will call no other witness, unless required
Desiring to be alone, Beryl had shut out even Sister Serena, and as
the officer locked her into a dark antechamber, adjoining the court-
room, she began to pace the floor. One tall, narrow window, dim with
inside dust, showed her through filmy cobwebs the gray veil of rain
falling ceaselessly outside, darkening the day that seemed a fit
type of her sombre-hued life, drawing swiftly to its close, with no
hope of rift in the clouds, no possibility of sunset glow even to
stain its grave. Oh! to be hidden safely in mother earth--away from
the gaping crowd that thirsted for her blood!--at rest in darkness
and in silence; with the maddening stings of outraged innocence and
womanly delicacy stilled forever. Oh! the coveted peace of lying
under the sod, with only nodding daisies, whispering grasses,
crystal chimes of vernal rain, solemn fugue of wintry winds between
her tired, aching eyes and the fair, eternal heavens! Harrowing days
and sleepless, horror-haunted nights, invincible sappers and miners,
had robbed her of strength; and the uncontrollable shivering that
now and then seized her, warned her that her nerves were in revolt
against the unnatural strain. The end was not far distant, she must
endure a little longer; but that last battle with Mr. Dunbar? On
what ground, with what weapons would he force her to fight? Kneeling
in front of a wooden bench that lined one side of the room, she laid
her head on the seat, covered her face with her hands, and prayed
for guidance, for divine help in her hour of supreme desolation.
"God of the helpless, succor me in my need. Forbid that through
weakness the sacrifice should be incomplete. Lead, sustain, fortify
me with patience, that I may ransom the soul I have promised to
After a time, when she resumed her walk, a strange expedient
presented itself. If she sent for Mr. Dunbar, exacted an oath of
secrecy, and confided the truth to his keeping, would it avail to
protect her secret; would it silence him? Could she stoop so low as
to throw herself upon his mercy? Therein lay the nauseous lees of
her cup of humiliation; yet if she drained this last black drop,
would any pledge have power to seal his lips, when he saw that she
The deputy sheriff unlocked the door, and she mechanically followed
"I wish you would drink this glass of wine. You look so exhausted,
and the air in yonder is so close, it is enough to stifle a mole.
This will help to brace you up."
"Thank you very much, but I could not take it. I can bear my wrongs
even to the end, and that must be very near."
As he ushered her into the court-room, Judge Dent met her, took her
hand, and led her to the seat where Dyce and Sister Serena awaited
"My poor child, be courageous now; and remember that you have some
friends here, who are praying God to help and deliver you."
"Did He deliver His own Son from the pangs of death? Pray, that I
may be patient to endure."
One swift glance, showed her that Mr. Dunbar, forsaking his former
place beside the district attorney, was sitting very near, just in
front of her. The jurymen filed slowly into their accustomed seats,
and the judge, who had been resting his head on his hand,
straightened himself, and put aside a book. There was an ominous
hush pervading the dense crowd, and in that moment of silent
expectancy, Beryl shut her eyes and communed with her God. Some
mystical exaltation of soul removed her from the realm of nervous
dread; and a peace, that this world neither gives nor takes away,
settled upon her. Sister Serena untied and took off the crape veil
and bonnet, and as she resumed her seat, Judge Parkman turned to the
"In assuming the responsibility of your own defence you have adopted
a line of policy which, however satisfactory to yourself, must, in
the opinion of the public, have a tendency to invest your cause with
peculiar peril; therefore I impress upon you the fact, that while
the law holds you innocent, until twelve men agree that the evidence
proves you guilty, the time has arrived when your cause depends upon
your power to refute the charges, and disprove the alleged facts
arrayed against you. The discovery and elucidation of Truth, is the
supreme aim of a court of justice, and to its faithful ministers the
defence of innocence is even more imperative than the conviction of
guilt. The law is a Gibraltar, fortified and armed by the consummate
wisdom of successive civilizations, as an impregnable refuge for
innocence; and here, within its protecting bulwarks, as in the house
of a friend, you are called on to plead your defence. You have heard
the charges of the prosecution; listened to the testimony of the
witnesses; and having taken your cause into your own hands, you must
now stand up and defend it."
She rose and walked a few steps closer to the jury, and for the
first time during the trial, looked at them steadily. White as a
statue of Purity, she stood for a moment, with her wealth of shining
auburn hair coiled low on her shapely head, and waving in soft
outlines around her broad full brow. Unnaturally calm, and
wonderfully beautiful in that sublime surrender, which like a halo
illumines the myth of Antigone, it was not strange that every heart
thrilled, when upon the strained ears of the multitude fell the
clear, sweet, indescribably mournful voice.
"When a magnolia blossom or a white camellia just fully open, is
snatched by violent hands, bruised, crushed, blackened, scarred by
rents, is it worth keeping? No power can undo the ruin, and since
all that made it lovely--its stainless purity--is irrevocably
destroyed, why preserve it? Such a pitiable wreck you have made of
the young life I am bidden to stand up and defend. Have you left me
anything to live for? Dragged by constables before prejudiced
strangers, accused of awful crimes, denounced as a female monster,
herded with convicts, can you imagine any reason why I should
struggle to prolong a disgraced, hopelessly ruined existence? My
shrivelled, mutilated life is in your hands, and if you decide to
crush it quickly, you will save me much suffering; as when having,
perhaps unintentionally, mangled some harmless insect, you
mercifully turn back, grind it under your heel, and end its torture.
My life is too wretched now to induce me to defend it, but there is
something I hold far dearer, my reputation as an honorable Christian
woman; something I deem most sacred of all--the unsullied purity of
the name my father and mother bore. Because I am innocent of every
charge made against me, I owe it to my dead, to lift their honored
name out of the mire. I have pondered the testimony; and the awful
mass of circumstances that have combined to accuse me, seems indeed
so overwhelming, that as each witness came forward, I have asked
myself, am I the victim of some baleful destiny, placed in the
grooves of destroying fate-foreordained from the foundations of the
world to bear the burden of another's guilt? You have been told that
I killed Gen'l Darrington, and stole his money and jewels, and
destroyed his will, in order to possess his estate. Trustworthy
witnesses have sworn to facts, which I cannot deny, and you believe
these facts; and yet, while the snare tightens around my feet, and I
believe you intend to condemn me, I stand here, and look you in the
face--as one day we thirteen will surely stand at the final
judgment--and in the name of the God I love, and fear, and trust, I
call you each to witness, that I am innocent of every charge in the
indictment. My hands are as unstained, my soul is as unsullied by
theft or bloodshed, as your sinless babes cooing in their cradles.
"If you can clear your minds of the foul tenants thrust into them,
try for a little while to forget all the monstrous crimes you have
heard ascribed to me, and as you love your mothers, wives,
daughters, go back with me, leaving prejudice behind, and listen
dispassionately to my most melancholy story. The river of death
rolls so close to my weary feet, that I speak as one on the brink of
eternity; and as I hope to meet my God in peace, I shall tell you
the truth. Sometimes it almost shakes our faith in God's justice,
when we suffer terrible consequences, solely because we did our
duty; and it seems to me bitterly hard, inscrutable, that all my
misfortunes should have come upon me thick and fast, simply because
I obeyed my mother. You, fathers, say to your children, 'Do this for
my sake,' and lovingly they spring to accomplish your wishes; and
when they are devoured by agony, and smothered by disgrace, can you
sufficiently pity them, blind artificers of their own ruin?
"Four months ago I was a very poor girl, but proud and happy,
because by my own work I could support my mother and myself. Her
health failed rapidly, and life hung upon an operation and certain
careful subsequent treatment, which it required one hundred dollars
to secure. I was competing for a prize that would lift us above
want, but time pressed; the doctor urged prompt action, and my
mother desired me to come South, see her father, deliver a letter
and beg assistance. As long as possible, I resisted her entreaties,
because I shrank from the degradation of coming as a beggar to the
man who, I knew, had disinherited and disowned his daughter.
"Finally, strangling my rebellious reluctance, I accepted the bitter
task. My mother kissed me good-bye, laid her hands on my head and
blessed me for acceding to her wishes; and so--following the finger
of Duty--I came here to be trampled, mangled, destroyed. When I
arrived, I found I could catch a train going north at 7.15, and I
bought a return ticket, and told the agent I intended to take that
train. I walked to 'Elm Bluff,' and after waiting a few moments was
admitted to Gen'l Darrington's presence. The letter which I
delivered was an appeal for one hundred dollars, and it was received
with an outburst of wrath, a flood of fierce and bitter denunciation
of my parents. The interview was indescribably painful, but toward
its close, Gen'l Darrington relented. He opened his safe or vault,
and took out a square tin box. Placing it on the table, he removed
some papers, and counted down into my hand, five gold coins--twenty
dollars each. When I turned to leave him, he called me back, gave me
the morocco case, and stated that the sapphires were very costly,
and could be sold for a large amount. He added, with great
bitterness, that he gave them, simply because they were painful
souvenirs of a past, which he was trying to forget; and that he had
intended them as a bridal gift to his son Prince's wife; but as they
had been bought by my mother's mother as a present for her only
child, he would send them to their original destination, for the
sake of his first wife, Helena.
"I left the room by the veranda door, because he bade me do so, to
avoid what he termed 'the prying of servants.' I broke some clusters
of chrysanthemums blooming in the rose garden, to carry to my
mother, and then I hurried away. If the wages of disobedience be
death, then fate reversed the mandate, and obedience exacts my life
as a forfeit. Think of it: I had ample time to reach the station
before seven o'clock, and if I had gone straight on, all would have
been well. I should have taken the 7.15 train, and left forever this
horrible place. If I had not loitered, I should have seen once more
my mother's face, have escaped shame, despair, ruin--oh! the
blessedness of what 'might have been!'
"Listen, my twelve judges, and pity the child who obeyed at all
hazards. Poor though I was, I bought a small bouquet for my sick
mother the day that I left her, and the last thing she did was to
arrange the flowers, tie them with a wisp of faded blue ribbon, and
putting them in my hand, she desired me to be sure to stop at the
cemetery, find her mother's grave in the Darrington lot, and lay the
bunch of blossoms for her upon her mother's monument. Mother's last
words were: 'Don't forget to kneel down and pray for me, at mother's
The voice so clear, so steady hitherto, quivered, ceased; and the
heavy lashes drooped to hide the tears that gathered; but it was
only for a few seconds, and she resumed in the same cold, distinct
"So I went on, and fate tied the last millstone around my neck.
After some search I found the place, and left the bunch of flowers
with a few of the chrysanthemums; then I hastened toward town, and
reached the station too late; the 7.15 train had gone. Too late!--
only a half hour lost, but it carried down everything that this
world held for me. I used to wonder and puzzle over that passage in
the Bible, 'The stars in their courses fought against Sisera!' I
have solved that mystery, for the stars in their courses' have
fought against me; heaven, earth, man, time, circumstances,
coincidences, all spun the web that snared my innocent feet. When I
paid for the telegram to relieve my mother's suspense, I had not
sufficient money (without using the gold) to enable me to incur
hotel bills; and I asked permission to remain in the waiting-room
until the next train, which was due at 3.05. The room was so close
and warm I walked out, and the fresh air tempted me to remain. The
moon was up, full and bright, and knowing no other street, I
unconsciously followed the one I had taken in the afternoon. Very
soon I reached the point near the old church where the road crosses,
and I turned into it, thinking that I would enjoy one more breath of
the pine forest, which was so new to me. It was so oppressively hot
I sat down on the pine straw, and fanned myself with my hat. How
long I remained there, I know not, for I fell asleep; and when I
awoke, Mr. Dunbar rode up and asked if I had lost my way. I answered
that I had not, and as soon as he galloped on, I walked back as
rapidly as possible, somewhat frightened at the loneliness of my
position. Already clouds were gathering, and I had been in the
waiting-room, I think about an hour, when the storm broke in its
fury. I had seen the telegraph operator sitting in his office, but
he seemed asleep, with his head resting on the table; and during the
storm I sat on the floor, in one corner of the waiting-room, and
laid my head on a chair. At last, when the tempest ended, I went to
sleep. During that sleep, I dreamed of my old home in Italy, of some
of my dead, of my father--of gathering grapes with one I dearly
loved--and suddenly some noise made me spring to my feet. I heard
voices talking, and in my feverish dreamy state, there seemed a
resemblance to one I knew. Only half awake, I ran out on the
pavement. Whether I dreamed the whole, I cannot tell; but the
conversation seemed strangely distinct; and I can never forget the
words, be they real, or imaginary: "'There ain't no train till
daylight, 'cepting it be the through freight.'
"Then a different voice asked: 'When it that due?'"
"'Pretty soon I reckon, it's mighty nigh time now, but it don't stop
here; it goes on to the water tank, where it blows for the bridge.'"
'"How far is the bridge?'"
"'Only a short piece down the track, after you pass the tank.'"
"When I reached the street, I saw no one but the figure of an old
man, I think a negro, who was walking away. He limped and carried a
bundle on the end of a stick thrown over his shoulder. I was so
startled and impressed by the fancied sound of a voice once familiar
to me, that I walked on down the track, but could see no one. Soon
the 'freight' came along; I stood aside until it passed, then
returned to the station, and found the agent standing in the door.
When he questioned me about my movements; I deemed him impertinent;
but having nothing to conceal, stated the facts I have just
recapitulated. You have been told that I intentionally missed the
train; that when seen at 10 P.M. in the pine woods, I was stealing
back to my mother's old home; that I entered at midnight the bedroom
where her father slept, stupefied him with chloroform, broke open
his vault, robbed it of money, jewels and will; and that when Gen'l
Darrington awoke and attempted to rescue his property, I
deliberately killed him. You are asked to believe that I am 'the
incarnate fiend' who planned and committed that horrible crime, and,
alas for me! every circumstance seems like a bloodhound to bay me.
My handkerchief was found, tainted with chloroform. It was my
handkerchief; but how it came there, on Gen'l Darrington's bed, only
God witnessed. I saw among the papers taken from the tin box and
laid on the table, a large envelope marked in red ink, 'Last Will
and Testament of Robert Luke Darrington'; but I never saw it
afterward. I was never in that room but once; and the last and only
time I ever saw General Darrington was when I passed out of the
glass door, and left him standing in the middle of the room, with
the tin box in his hand.
"I can call no witnesses; for it is one of the terrible fatalities
of my situation that I stand alone, with none to corroborate my
assertions. Strange, inexplicable coincidences drag me down; not the
malice of men, but the throttling grasp of circumstances. I am the
victim of some diabolical fate, which only innocent blood will
appease; but though I am slaughtered for crimes I did not commit, I
know, oh! I know, that BEHIND FATE, STANDS GOD!--the just and
eternal God, whom I trust, even in this my hour of extremest peril.
Alone in the world, orphaned, reviled, wrecked for all time, without
a ray of hope, I, Beryl Brentano, deny every accusation brought
against me in this cruel arraignment; and I call my only witness,
the righteous God above us, to hear my solemn asseveration: I am
innocent of this crime; and when you judicially murder me in the
name of Justice, your hands will be dyed in blood that an avenging
God will one day require of you. Appearances, circumstances,
coincidences of time and place, each, all, conspire to hunt me into
a convict's grave; but remember, my twelve judges, remember that a
hopeless, forsaken, broken-hearted woman, expecting to die at your
hands, stood before you, and pleaded first and last--Not Guilty! Not
A moment she paused, then raised her arms toward heaven and added,
with a sudden exultant ring in her thrilling voice, and a strange
rapt splendor in her uplifted eyes:
"Innocent! Innocent! Thou God knowest! Innocent of this sin, as the
angels that see Thy face."
As a glassy summer sea suddenly quivers, heaves, billows under the
strong steady pressure of a rising gale, so that human mass surged
and broke in waves of audible emotion, when Beryl's voice ceased;
for the grace and beauty of a sorrowing woman hold a spell more
potent than volumes of forensic eloquence, of juridic casuistry, of
rhetorical pyrotechnics, and at its touch, the latent floods of pity
gushed; people sprang to their feet, and somewhere in the wide
auditory a woman sobbed. Habitues of a celebrated Salon des
Etrangers recall the tradition of a Hungarian nobleman who,
apparently calm, nonchalant, debonair, gambled desperately; "while
his right hand, resting easily inside the breast of his coat,
clutched and lacerated his flesh till his nails dripped with blood."
With emotions somewhat analogous, Mr. Dunbar sat as participant in
this judicial rouge et noir, where the stakes were a human life, and
the skeleton hand of death was already outstretched. Listening to
the calm, mournful voice which alone had power to stir and thrill
his pulses, he could not endure the pain of watching the exquisite
face that haunted him day and night; and when he computed the
chances of her conviction, a maddening perception of her danger made
his brain reel.
To all of us comes a supreme hour, when realizing the adamantine
limitations of human power, the "thus far, no farther" of relentless
physiological, psychological and ethical statutes under which
humanity lives, moves, has its being--our desperate souls break
through the meshes of that pantheistic idolatry which kneels only to
"Natural Laws"; and spring as suppliants to Him, who made Law
possible. We take our portion of happiness and prosperity, and while
it lasts we wander far, far away in the seductive land of
philosophical speculation, and revel in the freedom and
irresponsibility of Agnosticism; and lo! when adversity smites, and
bankruptcy is upon us, we toss the husks of the "Unknowable and
Unthinkable" behind us, and flee as the Prodigal who knew his
father, to that God whom (in trouble) we surely know.
Certainly Lennox Dunbar was as far removed from religious tendencies
as conformity to the canons of conventional morality and the habits
of an honorable gentleman in good society would permit; yet to-day,
in the intensity of his dread, lest the "consummate flower" of his
heart's dearest hope should be laid low in the dust, he
involuntarily invoked the aid of a long-forgotten God; and through
his set teeth a prayer struggled up to the throne of that divine
mercy, which in sunshine we do not see, but which as the soul's
eternal lighthouse gleams, glows, beckons in the blackest night of
human anguish. In boyhood, desiring to please his invalid and slowly
dying mother, he had purchased and hung up opposite her bed, an
illuminated copy of her favorite text; and now, by some subtle
transmutation in the conservation of spiritual energy, each golden
letter of that Bible text seemed emblazoned on the dusty wall of the
court-room: "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in
When a stern reprimand from the Judge had quelled all audible
expression of the compassionate sympathy that flowed at the
prisoner's story--as the flood at Horeb responded to Moses' touch--
there was a brief silence.
Mr. Dunbar rose, crossed the intervening space and stood with his
hand on the back of Beryl's chair; then moved on closer to the jury
"May it please your Honor, and Gentlemen of the Jury: Sometimes
mistakes are crimes, and he who through unpardonable rashness
commits them, should not escape 'unwhipped of justice'. When a man
in the discharge of that which he deemed a duty, becomes aware that
unintentionally he has perpetrated a great wrong, can he parley with
pride, or dally, because the haunting ghost of consistency waves him
back from the path of a humiliating reparation? Error is easy,
confession galling; and stepping down from the censor's seat to
share the mortification of the pillory, is at all times a peculiarly
painful reverse; hence, powerful indeed must be the conviction which
impels a man who prided himself on his legal astuteness, to come
boldly into this sacred confessional of truth and justice and plead
for absolution from a stupendous mistake. Two years ago, I became
Gen'l Darrington's attorney, and when his tragic death occurred in
October last, my professional relations, as well as life-long
friendship, incited me to the prompt apprehension of the person who
had murdered him. After a careful and apparently exhaustive
examination of the authenticated facts, I was convinced that they
pointed only in one direction; and in that belief, I demanded and
procured the arrest of the prisoner. For her imprisonment, her
presence here to-day, her awful peril, I hold myself responsible;
and now, gentlemen of the jury, I ask you as men having hearts of
flesh, and all the honorable instincts of manhood, which alone could
constitute you worthy umpires in this issue of life or death, do
you, can you wonder that regret sits at my ear, chanting mournful
dirges, and remorse like a harpy fastens her talons in my soul, when
I tell you, that I have committed a blunder so frightful, that it
borders on a crime as heinous as that for which my victim stands
arraigned? Wise was the spirit of a traditional statute, which
decreed that the author of a false accusation should pay the penalty
designed for the accused; and just indeed would be the retribution,
that imposed on me the suffering I have entailed on her.
"Acknowledging the error into which undue haste betrayed me, yet
confident that divine justice, to whom I have sworn allegiance, has
recalled me from a false path to one that I can now tread with
absolute certainty of success, I come to-day into this, her sacred
temple, lay my hand on her inviolate altar, and claiming the
approval of her officiating high-priest, his Honor, appeal to you,
gentlemen of the jury, to give me your hearty co-operation in my
effort to repair a foul wrong, by vindicating innocence.
"Professors of ophthalmology in a diagnosis of optical diseases,
tell us of a symptom of infirmity which they call pseudoblepsis, or
'false sight.' Legal vision exhibits, now and then, a corresponding
phase of unconscious perversion of sight, whereby objects are
perceived that do not exist, and objects present become transformed,
distorted; and such an instance of exaggerated metamorphosia is
presented to-day, in the perverted vision of the prosecution. In the
incipiency of this case, prior to, and during the preliminary
examination held in October last, I appeared in conjunction with Mr.
Wolverton, as assistant counsel in the prosecution, represented by
the Honorable Mr. Churchill, District Solicitor; the object of said
prosecution being the conviction of the prisoner, who was held as
guilty of Gen'l Darrington's death. Subsequent reflection and search
necessitated an abandonment of views that could alone justify such a
position; and after consultation with my colleagues I withdrew; not
from the prosecution of the real criminal, to the discovery and
conviction of whom I shall dedicate every energy of my nature, but
from the pursuit of one most unjustly accused. Anomalous as is my
attitude, the dictates of conscience, reason, heart, force me into
it; and because I am the implacable prosecutor of Gen'l Darrington's
murderer, _I_ COME TO PLEAD IN DEFENSE OF THE PRISONER, whom I hold
guiltless of the crime, innocent of the charge in the indictment. In
the supreme hour of her isolation, she has invoked only one witness;
and may that witness, the God above us, the God of justice, the God
of innocence, grant me the inspiration, and nerve my arm to snatch
her from peril, and triumphantly vindicate the purity of her noble
heart and life."
Remembering the important evidence which he had furnished to the
prosecution, only a few hours previous, when on the witness stand,
people looked at one another questioningly; doubting the testimony
of their own senses; and VOX POPULI was not inaptly expressed by the
whispered ejaculation of Bedney to Dyce.
"Judgment day must be breaking! Mars Lennox is done turned a double
summersett, and lit plum over on t'other side! It's about ekal to a
spavinned, ring-boned, hamstrung, hobbled horse clearin' a ten-rail
fence! He jumps so beautiful, I am afeered he won't stay whar he
Comprehending all that this public recantation had cost a proud man,
jealous of his reputation for professional tact and skill, as well
as for individual acumen, Beryl began to realize the depth and
fervor of the love that prompted it; and the merciless ordeal to
which he would subject her. Inflicting upon himself the smarting
sting of the keenest possible humiliation, could she hope that in
the attainment of his aim he would spare her? If she threw herself
even now upon his mercy, would he grant to her that which he had
Dreading the consequences of even a moment's delay, she rose, and a
hot flush crimsoned her cheeks, as she looked up at the Judge.
"Is it my privilege to decide who shall defend me? Have I now the
right to accept or reject proffered aid?"
"The law grants you that privilege; secures you that right."
"Then I decline the services of the counsel who offers to plead in
my defence. I wish no human voice raised in my behalf, and having
made my statement in my own defence, I commit my cause to the hands
of my God."
For a moment her eyes dwelt upon the lawyer's, and as she resumed
her seat, she saw the spark in their blue depths leap into a flame.
Advancing a few steps, his handsome face aglow, his voice rang like
a bugle call:
"May it please your Honor: Anomalous conditions sanction,
necessitate most anomalous procedure, where the goal sought is
simple truth and justice; and since the prisoner prefers to rest her
cause, I come to this bar as Amicus Curiae, and appeal for
permission to plead in behalf of my clients, truth and justice, who
hold me in perpetual retainment. In prosecution of the real
criminal, in order to unravel the curiously knitted web, and bring
the culprit to summary punishment, I ask you, gentlemen of the jury,
to ponder dispassionately the theory I have now the honor to submit
to your scrutiny.
"The prisoner, whom I regard as the victim of my culpable haste and
deplorably distorted vision, is as innocent of Gen'l Darrington's
murder as you or I; but I charge, that while having no complicity in
that awful deed, she is nevertheless perfectly aware of the name of
the person who committed it. Not particeps crimmis, neither
consenting to, aiding, abetting nor even acquainted with the fact of
the crime, until accused of its perpetration; yet at this moment in
possession of the only clue which will enable justice to seize the
murderer. Conscious of her innocence, she braves peril that would
chill the blood of men, and extort almost any secret; and shall I
tell you the reason? Shall I give you the key to an enigma which she
knows means death?
"Gentlemen of the jury, is there any sacrifice so tremendous, any
anguish so keen, any shame so dreadful, any fate so overwhelmingly
terrible as to transcend the endurance, or crush the power of a
woman's love? Under this invincible inspiration, when danger
threatens her idol, she knows no self; disgrace, death affright her
not; she extends her arms to arrest every approach, offers her own
breast as a shield against darts, bullets, sword thrusts, and counts
it a privilege to lay down life in defence of that idol. O! loyalty
supreme, sublime, immortal! thy name is woman's love.
"All along the march of humanity, where centuries have trailed their
dust, traditions gleam like monuments to attest the victory of this
immemorial potency, female fidelity; and when we of the nineteenth
century seek the noblest, grandest type of merely human self-
abnegation, that laid down a pure and happy life, to prolong that of
a beloved object, we look back to the lovely image of that fair
Greek woman, who, when the parents of the man she loved refused to
give their lives to save their son, summoned death to accept her as
a willing victim; and deeming it a privilege, went down triumphantly
into the grave. Sustained, exalted by this most powerful passion
that can animate and possess a human soul, the prisoner stands a
pure, voluntary, self-devoted victim; defying the terrors of the
law, consenting to condemnation--surrendering to an ignominious
death, in order to save the life of the man she loves.
"Grand and beautiful as is the spectacle of her calm mournful
heroism, I ask you, as men capable of appreciating her noble self-
immolation, can you permit the consummation of this sacrifice? Will
you, dare you, selected, appointed, dedicated by solemn oaths to
administer justice, prove so recreant to your holy trust as to aid,
abet, become accessories to, and responsible for the murder of the
prisoner by accepting a stainless victim, to appease that violated
law which only the blood of the guilty can ever satisfy?
"In order to avert so foul a blot on the escutcheon of our State
judiciary, in order to protect innocence from being slaughtered, and
supremely in order to track and bring to summary punishment the
criminal who robbed and murdered Gen'l Darrington, I now desire, and
request, that your Honor will permit me to cross-examine the
prisoner on the statement she has offered in defence."
"In making that request, counsel must be aware that it is one of the
statutory provisions of safety to the accused, whom the law holds
innocent until proved guilty, that no coercion can be employed to
extort answers. It is, however, the desire of the court, and
certainly must accrue to the benefit of the prisoner, that she
should take the witness stand in her own defence."
For a moment there was neither sound nor motion.
"Will the prisoner answer such questions as in the opinion of the
court are designed solely to establish her innocence? If so, she
will take the stand."
With a sudden passionate movement at variance with her demeanor
throughout the trial, she threw up her clasped hands, gazed at them,
then pressed them ring downward as a seal upon her lips; and after
an instant, answered slowly:
"Now and henceforth, I decline to answer any and all questions. I am
innocent, entirely innocent. The burden of proof rests upon my
As Mr. Dunbar watched her, noted the scarlet spots burning on her
cheeks, the strange expression of her eyes that glowed with
unnatural lustre, a scowl darkened his face; a cruel smile curved
his lips, and made his teeth gleam. Was it worth while to save her
against her will; to preserve the heart he coveted, for the vile
miscreant to whom she had irrevocably given it? With an upward
movement of his noble head, like the impatient toss of a horse
intolerant of curb, he stepped back close to the girl, and stood
with his hand on the back of her chair.
"In view of this palpable evasion of justice through obstinate non
responsion, will it please the Court to overrule the prisoner's
Several moments elapsed before Judge Parkman replied, and he gnawed
the end of his grizzled mustache, debating the consequences of
dishonoring precedent--that fetich of the Bench.
"The Court cannot so rule. The prisoner has decided upon the line of
defence, as is her inalienable right; and since she persistently
assumes that responsibility, the Court must sustain her decision."
The expression of infinite and intense relief that stole over the
girl's countenance, was, noted by both judge and jury, as she sank
back wearily in her chair, like one lifted from some rack of
torture. Resting thus, her shoulder pressed against the hand that
lay on the top of the chair, but he did not move a finger; and some
magnetic influence drew her gaze to meet his. He felt the tremor
that crept over her, understood the mute appeal, the prayer for
forbearance that made her mournful gray eyes so eloquent, and a
sinister smile distorted his handsome mouth.
"The spirit and intent of the law, the usages of criminal practice,
above all, hoary precedent, before which we bow, each and all
sanction your Honor's ruling; and yet despite everything, the end I
sought is already attained. Is not the refusal of the prisoner proof
positive, 'confirmation strong as proofs of Holy Writ' of the truth
of my theory? With jealous dread she seeks to lock the clue in her
faithful heart, courting even the coffin, that would keep it safe
through all the storms of time. Impregnable in her citadel of
silence, with the cohorts of Codes to protect her from escalade and
assault, will the guardians of justice have obeyed her solemn
commands when they permit the prisoner to light the funeral pyre
where she elects to throw herself--a vicarious sacrifice for
another's sins? For a nature so exalted, the Providence who endowed
it has decreed a nobler fate; and by His help, and that of your
twelve consciences, I purpose to save her from a species of suicide,
and to consign to the hangman the real criminal. The evidence now
submitted, will be furnished by the testimony of witnesses who, at
my request, have been kept without the hearing of the Court."
He left Beryl's chair, and once more approached the jury,
A negro man, apparently sixty years old, limped into the witness
stand, and having been sworn, stood leaning on his stick, staring
uneasily about him.
"What is your name?"
"Isam Clay Hornbuckle."
"Where do you live?"
"Nigh the forks of the road, close to 'Possum Ridge."
"How far from town?"
"By short cuts I make it about ten miles; but the gang what works
the road, calls it twelve."
"Have you a farm there?"
"Yes'ir. A pretty tolerable farm; a cornfield and potato patch and
gyarden, and parsture for my horgs and oxin, and a slipe of woods
for my pine knots."
"What is your business?"
"Tryin' to make a livin', and it keeps me bizzy, for lans is poor,
and seasons is most ginerally agin crops."
"How long have you been farming?"
"Only sence I got mashed up more 'an a year ago on the railroad."
"In what capacity did you serve when working on the road?"
"I was fireman under ingeneer Walker on the lokymotive 'Gin'l
Borygyard,' what most ginerally hauled Freight No. 2. The ingines
goes now by numbers, but we ole hands called our'n always
"You were crippled in a collision between two freight trains?"
"Yes'ir; but t'other train was the cause of the--"
"Never mind the cause of the accident. You moved out to 'Possum
Ridge; can you remember exactly when you were last in town?"
"To be shore! I know exactly, 'cause it was the day my ole 'oman's
step-father's granny's funeral sarmont was preached; and that was on
a Thursday, twenty-sixth of October, an' I come up to 'tend it."
"Is it not customary to preach the funeral sermons on Sunday?"
"Most generally, Boss, it are; but you see Bre'r Green, what was to
preach the ole 'oman's sarmont, had a big baptizin' for two Sundays
han' runnin', and he was gwine to Boston for a spell, on the next
comin' Saddy, so bein' as our time belonks to us now, we was free to
'pint a week day."
"You are positive it was the twenty-sixth?"
"Oh, yes'ir; plum postiv. The day was norated from all the baptiss
churches, so as the kinfolks could gether from fur and nigh."
"At what hour on Thursday was the funeral sermon preached?"
"Four o'clock sharp."
"Where did you stay while in town?"
"With my son Ducaleyon who keeps a barber-shop on Main Street."
"When did you return home?"
"I started before day, Friday mornin', as soon as the rain hilt up."
"At what hour, do you think?"
"The town clock was a strikin' two, jes as I passed the express
office, at the station."
"Now, Isam, tell the Court whom you saw, and what happened; and be
very careful in all you say, remembering you are on your oath."
"I was atoting a bundle so--slung on to a stick, and it gaided my
shoulder, 'cause amongst a whole passel of plunder I had bought,
ther was a bag of shot inside, what had slewed 'round oft the
balance, and I sot down, close to a lamp-post nigh the station, to
shift the heft of the shot bag. Whilst I were a squatting, tying up
my bundle, I heered all of a suddent--somebody runnin', brip--brap--!
and up kern a man from round the corner of the stationhouse, a
runnin' full tilt; and he would a run over me, but I grabbed my
bundle and riz up. Sez I: 'Hello! what's to pay?' He was most out of
breath, but sez he: 'Is the train in yet?' Sez I: 'There ain't no
train till daylight, 'cepting it be the through freight.' Then he
axed me: 'When is that due?' and I tole him: 'Pretty soon, I reckon,
but it don't stop here; it only slows up at the water tank, whar it
blows for the Bridge.' Sez he: 'How fur is that bridge?' Sez I:
'Only a short piece down the track, after you pass the tank.' He
tuck a long breath, and kinder whistled, and with that he turned and
heeled it down the middle of the track. I thought it mighty curus,
and my mind misgive me thar was somethin' crooked; but I always
pintedly dodges; 'lie-lows to ketch meddlers,' and I went on my way.
When I got nigh the next corner whar I had to turn to cross the
river, I looked back and I seen a 'oman standin' on the track, in
front of the station-house; but I parsed on, and soon kem to the
bridge (not the railroad bridge), Boss. I had got on the top of the
hill to the left of the Pentenchry, when I hearn ole 'Bory' blow.
You see I knowed the runnin' of the kyars, 'cause that through
freight was my ole stormpin-ground, and I love the sound of that
ingine's whistle more 'an I do my gran'childun's hymn chunes. She
blowed long and vicious like, and I seen her sparks fly, as she lit
out through town; and then I footed it home."
"You think the train was on time?"
"Bound to be; she never was cotched behind time, not while I stuffed
her with coal and lightwood knots. She was plum punctchul."
"Was the lamp lighted where you tied your bundle?"
"Yes'ir, burnin' bright."
"Tell the Court the appearance of the man whom you talked with."
Mr. Dunbar was watching the beautiful face so dear to him, and saw
the prisoner lean forward, her lips parted, all her soul in the
wide, glowing eyes fastened on the countenance of the witness.
"He was very tall and wiry, and 'peared like a young man what had
parstured 'mongst wild oats. He seemed cut out for a gintleman, but
run to seed too quick and turned out nigh kin to a dead beat. One-
half of him was hanssum, 'minded me mightly of that stone head with
kurly hair what sets over the sody fountin in the drug store, on
Main Street. Oh, yes'ir, one side was too pretty for a man; but