Part 1 out of 2
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FROM WHOSE BOURNE
BY ROBERT BARR (LUKE SHARP)
AUTHOR OF "IN A STEAMER CHAIR" ETC.
[Illustration: William Brenton--]
_WITH FORTY-SEVEN ILLUSTRATIONS
BY C.M.D. HAMMOND, G.D. HAMMOND, AND HAL HURST_
AN HONEST MAN
A GOOD WOMAN
FROM WHOSE BOURNE
Buel placed his portmanteau on the deck
"Do you think I shall be missed?"
He again sat in the rocking-chair
He saw standing beside him a stranger
A Venetian Cafe
The Brenton Murder
The Broken Toy
"She's pretty as a picture"
Raising the Veil
"Oh, why did I do it?"
"How much time do you give me?"
In the prisoner's dock
"I feel very grateful to you"
"Here's the detailed report"
"My dear," said William Brenton to his wife, "do you think I shall be
missed if I go upstairs for a while? I am not feeling at all well."
[Illustration: _"Do you think I shall be missed?"_]
"Oh, I'm so sorry, Will," replied Alice, looking concerned; "I will tell
them you are indisposed."
"No, don't do that," was the answer; "they are having a very good time,
and I suppose the dancing will begin shortly; so I don't think they will
miss me. If I feel better I will be down in an hour or two; if not, I
shall go to bed. Now, dear, don't worry; but have a good time with the
rest of them."
William Brenton went quietly upstairs to his room, and sat down in the
darkness in a rocking chair. Remaining there a few minutes, and not
feeling any better, he slowly undressed and went to bed. Faint echoes
reached him of laughter and song; finally, music began, and he felt,
rather than heard, the pulsation of dancing feet. Once, when the music
had ceased for a time, Alice tiptoed into the room, and said in a quiet
"How are you feeling, Will? any better?"
"A little," he answered drowsily. "Don't worry about me; I shall drop
off to sleep presently, and shall be all right in the morning. Good
He still heard in a dreamy sort of way the music, the dancing, the
laughter; and gradually there came oblivion, which finally merged into
a dream, the most strange and vivid vision he had ever experienced.
It seemed to him that he sat again in the rocking chair near the bed.
Although he knew the room was dark, he had no difficulty in seeing
everything perfectly. He heard, now quite plainly, the music and dancing
downstairs, but what gave a ghastly significance to his dream was the
sight of his own person on the bed. The eyes were half open, and the
face was drawn and rigid. The colour of the face was the white, greyish
tint of death.
"This is a nightmare," said Brenton to himself; "I must try and wake
myself." But he seemed powerless to do this, and he sat there looking at
his own body while the night wore on. Once he rose and went to the side
of the bed. He seemed to have reached it merely by wishing himself
there, and he passed his hand over the face, but no feeling of touch was
communicated to him. He hoped his wife would come and rouse him from
this fearful semblance of a dream, and, wishing this, he found himself
standing at her side, amidst the throng downstairs, who were now merrily
saying good-bye. Brenton tried to speak to his wife, but although he
was conscious of speaking, she did not seem to hear him, or know he was
[Illustration: _He again sat in the rocking-chair._]
The party had been one given on Christmas Eve, and as it was now two
o'clock in the morning, the departing guests were wishing Mrs. Brenton a
merry Christmas. Finally, the door closed on the last of the revellers,
and Mrs. Brenton stood for a moment giving instructions to the sleepy
servants; then, with a tired sigh, she turned and went upstairs, Brenton
walking by her side until they came to the darkened, room, which she
entered on tiptoe.
"Now," said Brenton to himself, "she will arouse me from this appalling
dream." It was not that there was anything dreadful in the dream itself,
but the clearness with which he saw everything, and the fact that his
mind was perfectly wide awake, gave him an uneasiness which he found
impossible to shake off.
In the dim light from the hall his wife prepared to retire. The horrible
thought struck Brenton that she imagined he was sleeping soundly,
and was anxious not to awaken him--for of course she could have no
realization of the nightmare he was in--so once again he tried to
communicate with her. He spoke her name over and over again, but she
proceeded quietly with her preparations for the night. At last she crept
in at the other side of the bed, and in a few moments was asleep. Once
more Brenton struggled to awake, but with no effect. He heard the clock
strike three, and then four, and then five, but there was no apparent
change in his dream. He feared that he might be in a trance, from which,
perhaps, he would not awake until it was too late. Grey daylight began
to brighten the window, and he noticed that snow was quietly falling
outside, the flakes noiselessly beating against the window pane. Every
one slept late that morning, but at last he heard the preparations for
breakfast going on downstairs--the light clatter of china on the table,
the rattle of the grate; and, as he thought of these things, he found
himself in the dining-room, and saw the trim little maid, who still
yawned every now and then, laying the plates in their places. He went
upstairs again, and stood watching the sleeping face of his wife. Once
she raised her hand above her head, and he thought she was going to
awake; ultimately her eyes opened, and she gazed for a time at the
ceiling, seemingly trying to recollect the events of the day before.
"Will," she said dreamily, "are you still asleep?"
There was no answer from the rigid figure at the front of the bed. After
a few moments she placed her hand quietly over the sleeper's face. As
she did so, her startled eyes showed that she had received a shock.
Instantly she sat upright in bed, and looked for one brief second on the
face of the sleeper beside her; then, with a shriek that pierced the
stillness of the room, she sprang to the floor.
"Will! Will!" she cried, "speak to me! What is the matter with you? Oh,
my God! my God!" she cried, staggering back from the bed. Then, with
shriek after shriek, she ran blindly through the hall to the stairway,
and there fell fainting on the floor.
William Brenton knelt beside the fallen lady, and tried to soothe and
comfort her, but it was evident that she was insensible.
"It is useless," said a voice by his side.
Brenton looked up suddenly, and saw standing beside him a stranger.
Wondering for a moment how he got there, and thinking that after all it
was a dream, he said--
"What is useless? She is not dead."
"No," answered the stranger, "but _you_ are."
[Illustration: _He saw standing beside him a stranger_.]
"I am what?" cried Brenton.
"You are what the material world calls dead, although in reality you
have just begun to live."
"And who are you?" asked Brenton. "And how did you get in here?" The
"How did _you_ get in here?" he said, repeating Brenton's words.
"I? Why, this is my own house."
"Was, you mean."
"I mean that it is. I am in my own house. This lady is my wife."
"_Was_" said the other.
"I do not understand you," cried Brenton, very much annoyed. "But, in
any case, your presence and your remarks are out of place here."
"My dear sir," said the other, "I merely wish to aid you and to explain
to you anything that you may desire to know about your new condition.
You are now free from the incumbrance of your body. You have already had
some experience of the additional powers which that riddance has given
you. You have also, I am afraid, had an inkling of the fact that the
spiritual condition has its limitations. If you desire to communicate
with those whom you have left, I would strongly advise you to postpone
the attempt, and to leave this place, where you will experience only
pain and anxiety. Come with me, and learn something of your changed
"I am in a dream," said Brenton, "and you are part of it. I went to
sleep last night, and am still dreaming. This is a nightmare and it will
soon be over."
"You are saying that," said the other, "merely to convince yourself.
It is now becoming apparent to you that this is not a dream. If dreams
exist, it was a dream which you left, but you have now become awake. If
you really think it is a dream, then do as I tell you--come with me and
leave it, because you must admit that this part of the dream is at least
"It is not very pleasant," assented Brenton. As he spoke the bewildered
servants came rushing up the stairs, picked up their fallen mistress,
and laid her on a sofa. They rubbed her hands and dashed water in her
face. She opened her eyes, and then closed them again with a shudder.
"Sarah," she cried, "have I been dreaming, or is your master dead?"
The two girls turned pale at this, and the elder of them went boldly
into the room which her mistress had just left. She was evidently
a young woman who had herself under good control, but she came out
sobbing, with her apron to her eyes.
"Come, come," said the man who stood beside Brenton, "haven't you had
enough of this? Come with me; you can return to this house if you wish;"
and together they passed out of the room into the crisp air of Christmas
morning. But, although Brenton knew it must be cold, he had no feeling
of either cold or warmth.
"There are a number of us," said the stranger to Brenton, "who take
turns at watching the sick-bed when a man is about to die, and when his
spirit leaves his body, we are there to explain, or comfort, or console.
Your death was so sudden that we had no warning of it. You did not feel
ill before last night, did you?"
"No," replied Brenton. "I felt perfectly well, until after dinner last
"Did you leave your affairs in reasonably good order?"
"Yes," said Brenton, trying to recollect. "I think they will find
everything perfectly straight."
"Tell me a little of your history, if you do not mind," inquired the
other; "it will help me in trying to initiate you into our new order of
"Well," replied Brenton, and he wondered at himself for falling so
easily into the other's assumption that he was a dead man, "I was what
they call on the earth in reasonably good circumstances. My estate
should be worth $100,000. I had $75,000 insurance on my life, and if all
that is paid, it should net my widow not far from a couple of hundred
"How long have you been married?" said the other.
[Illustration: _A Venetian cafe_]
"Only about six months. I was married last July, and we went for a trip
abroad. We were married quietly, and left almost immediately afterwards,
so we thought, on our return, it would not be a bad plan to give a
Christmas Eve dinner, and invite some of our friends. That," he said,
hesitating a moment, "was last night. Shortly after dinner, I began to
feel rather ill, and went upstairs to rest for a while; and if what you
say is true, the first thing I knew I found myself dead."
"Alive," corrected the other.
"Well, alive, though at present I feel I belong more to the world I have
left than I do to the world I appear to be in. I must confess, although
you are a very plausible gentleman to talk to, that I expect at any
moment to wake and find this to have been one of the most horrible
nightmares that I ever had the ill luck to encounter."
The other smiled.
"There is very little danger of your waking up, as you call it. Now, I
will tell you the great trouble we have with people when they first come
to the spirit-land, and that is to induce them to forget entirely
the world they have relinquished. Men whose families are in poor
circumstances, or men whose affairs are in a disordered state, find it
very difficult to keep from trying to set things right again. They have
the feeling that they can console or comfort those whom they have left
behind them, and it is often a long time before they are convinced that
their efforts are entirely futile, as well as very distressing for
"Is there, then," asked Brenton, "no communication between this world
and the one that I have given up?"
The other paused for a moment before he replied.
"I should hardly like to say," he answered, "that there is _no_
communication between one world and the other; but the communication
that exists is so slight and unsatisfactory, that if you are sensible
you will see things with the eyes of those who have very much more
experience in this world than you have. Of course, you can go back there
as much as you like; there will be no interference and no hindrance.
But when you see things going wrong, when you see a mistake about to
be made, it is an appalling thing to stand there helpless, unable to
influence those you love, or to point out a palpable error, and convince
them that your clearer sight sees it as such. Of course, I understand
that it must be very difficult for a man who is newly married, to
entirely abandon the one who has loved him, and whom he loves. But
I assure you that if you follow the life of one who is as young and
handsome as your wife, you will find some one else supplying the
consolations you are unable to bestow. Such a mission may lead you to a
church where she is married to her second husband. I regret to say that
even the most imperturbable spirits are ruffled when such an incident
occurs. The wise men are those who appreciate and understand that they
are in an entirely new world, with new powers and new limitations, and
who govern themselves accordingly from the first, as they will certainly
do later on."
"My dear sir," said Brenton, somewhat offended, "if what you say is
true, and I am really a dead man----"
"Alive," corrected the other.
"Well, alive, then. I may tell you that my wife's heart is broken. She
will never marry again."
"Of course, that is a subject which you know a great deal more than I
do. I all the more strongly advise you never to see her again. It is
impossible for you to offer any consolation, and the sight of her grief,
and misery will only result in unhappiness for yourself. Therefore, take
my advice. I have given it very often, and I assure you those who did
not take it expressed their regret afterwards. Hold entirely aloof from
anything relating to your former life."
Brenton was silent for some moments; finally he said--
"I presume your advice is well meant; but if things are as you state,
then I may as well say, first as last, that I do not intend to accept
"Very well," said the other; "it is an experience that many prefer to go
through for themselves."
"Do you have names in this spirit-land?" asked Brenton, seemingly
desirous of changing the subject.
"Yes," was the answer; "we are known by names that we have used in the
preparatory school below. My name is Ferris."
"And if I wish to find you here, how do I set about it?"
"The wish is sufficient," answered Ferris. "Merely wish to be with me,
and you _are_ with me."
"Good gracious!" cried Brenton, "is locomotion so easy as that?"
"Locomotion is very easy. I do not think anything could be easier
than it is, and I do not think there could be any improvement in that
"Are there matters here, then, that you think could be improved?"
"As to that I shall not say. Perhaps you will be able to give your own
opinion before you have lived here much longer."
"Taking it all in all," said Brenton, "do you think the spirit-land is
to be preferred to the one we have left?"
"I like it better," said Ferris, "although I presume there are some
who do not. There are many advantages; and then, again, there are
many--well, I would not say disadvantages, but still some people
consider them such. We are free from the pangs of hunger or cold, and
have therefore no need of money, and there is no necessity for the rush
and the worry of the world below."
"And how about heaven and hell?" said Brenton. "Are those localities all
a myth? Is there nothing of punishment and nothing of reward in this
There was no answer to this, and when Brenton looked around he found
that his companion had departed.
William Brenton pondered long on the situation. He would have known
better how to act if he could have been perfectly certain that he was
not still the victim of a dream. However, of one thing there was no
doubt--namely, that it was particularly harrowing to see what he had
seen in his own house. If it were true that he was dead, he said to
himself, was not the plan outlined for him by Ferris very much the wiser
course to adopt? He stood now in one of the streets of the city so
familiar to him. People passed and repassed him--men and women whom
he had known in life--but nobody appeared to see him. He resolved, if
possible, to solve the problem uppermost in his mind, and learn whether
or not he could communicate with an inhabitant of the world he had left.
He paused for a moment to consider the best method of doing this. Then
he remembered one of his most confidential friends and advisers, and at
once wished himself at his office. He found the office closed, but went
in to wait for his friend. Occupying the time in thinking over his
strange situation, he waited long, and only when the bells began to ring
did he remember it was Christmas forenoon, and that his friend would
not be at the office that day. The next moment he wished himself at his
friend's house, but he was as unsuccessful as at the office; the friend
was not at home. The household, however, was in great commotion, and,
listening to what was said, he found that the subject of conversation
was his own death, and he learned that his friend had gone to the
Brenton residence as soon as he heard the startling news of Christmas
Once more Brenton paused, and did not know what to do. He went again
into the street. Everything seemed to lead him toward his own home.
Although he had told Ferris that he did not intend to take his advice,
yet as a sensible man he saw that the admonition was well worth
considering, and if he could once become convinced that there was no
communication possible between himself and those he had left; if he
could give them no comfort and no cheer; if he could see the things
which they did not see, and yet be unable to give them warning, he
realized that he would merely be adding to his own misery, without
alleviating the troubles of others.
He wished he knew where to find Ferris, so that he might have another
talk with him. The man impressed him as being exceedingly sensible. No
sooner, however, had he wished for the company of Mr. Ferris than he
found himself beside that gentleman.
"By George!" he said in astonishment, "you are just the man I wanted to
"Exactly," said Ferris; "that is the reason you do see me."
"I have been thinking over what you said," continued the other, "and it
strikes me that after all your advice is sensible."
"Thank you," replied Ferris, with something like a smile on his face.
"But there is one thing I want to be perfectly certain about. I want to
know whether it is not possible for me to communicate with my friends.
Nothing will settle that doubt in my mind except actual experience."
"And have you not had experience enough?" asked Ferris.
"Well," replied the other, hesitating, "I have had some experience, but
it seems to me that, if I encounter an old friend, I could somehow make
myself felt by him."
"In that case," answered Ferris, "if nothing will convince you but an
actual experiment, why don't you go to some of your old friends and try
what you can do with them?"
"I have just been to the office and to the residence of one of my old
friends. I found at his residence that he had gone to my"--Brenton
paused for a moment--"former home. Everything seems to lead me there,
and yet, if I take your advice, I must avoid that place of all others."
"I would at present, if I were you," said Ferris. "Still, why not try it
with any of the passers-by?"
Brenton looked around him. People were passing and repassing where the
two stood talking with each other. "Merry Christmas" was the word on all
lips. Finally Brenton said, with a look of uncertainty on his face--
"My dear fellow, I can't talk to any of these people. I don't know
Ferris laughed at this, and replied--
"I don't think you will shock them very much; just try it."
"Ah, here's a friend of mine. You wait a moment, and I will accost him."
Approaching him, Brenton held out his hand and spoke, but the traveller
paid no attention. He passed by as one who had seen or heard nothing.
"I assure you," said Ferris, as he noticed the look of disappointment on
the other's face, "you will meet with a similar experience, however much
you try. You know the old saying about one not being able to have his
cake and eat it too. You can't have the privileges of this world and
those of the world you left as well. I think, taking it all in all, you
should rest content, although it always hurts those who have left the
other world not to be able to communicate with their friends, and at
least assure them of their present welfare."
"It does seem to me," replied Brenton, "that would be a great
consolation, both for those who are here and those who are left."
"Well, I don't know about that," answered the other. "After all, what
does life in the other world amount to? It is merely a preparation for
this. It is of so short a space, as compared with the life we live here,
that it is hardly worth while to interfere with it one way or another.
By the time you are as long here as I have been, you will realize the
truth of this."
"Perhaps I shall," said Brenton, with a sigh; "but, meanwhile, what am
I to do with myself? I feel like the man who has been all his life
in active business, and who suddenly resolves to enjoy himself doing
nothing. That sort of thing seems to kill a great number of men,
especially if they put off taking a rest until too late, as most of us
"Well," said Ferris, "there is no necessity of your being idle here, I
assure you. But before you lay out any work for yourself, let me ask you
if there is not some interesting part of the world that you would like
"Certainly; I have seen very little of the world. That is one of my
regrets at leaving it."
"Bless me," said the other, "you haven't left it."
"Why, I thought you said I was a dead man?"
"On the contrary," replied his companion, "I have several times insisted
that you have just begun to live. Now where shall we spend the day?"
"How would London do?"
"I don't think it would do; London is apt to be a little gloomy at this
time of the year. But what do you say to Naples, or Japan, or, if you
don't wish to go out of the United States, Yellowstone Park?"
"Can we reach any of those places before the day is over?" asked
"Well, I will soon show you how we manage all that. Just wish to
accompany me, and I will take you the rest of the way."
"How would Venice do?" said Brenton. "I didn't see half as much of that
city as I wanted to."
"Very well," replied his companion, "Venice it is;" and the American
city in which they stood faded away from them, and before Brenton could
make up his mind exactly what was happening, he found himself walking
with his comrade in St. Mark's Square.
"Well, for rapid transit," said Brenton, "this beats anything I've ever
had any idea of; but it increases the feeling that I am in a dream."
"You'll soon get used to it," answered Ferris; and, when you do, the
cumbersome methods of travel in the world itself will show themselves in
their right light. "Hello!" he cried, "here's a man whom I should
like you to meet. By the way, I either don't know your name or I have
"William Brenton," answered the other.
"Mr. Speed, I want to introduce you to Mr. Brenton."
"Ah," said Speed, cordially, "a new-comer. One of your victims, Ferris?"
"Say one of his pupils, rather," answered Brenton.
[Illustration: _In Venice_.]
"Well, it is pretty much the same thing," said Speed. "How long have you
been with us, and how do you like the country?"
"You see, Mr. Brenton," interrupted Ferris, "John Speed was a newspaper
man, and he must ask strangers how they like the country. He has
inquired so often while interviewing foreigners for his paper that now
he cannot abandon his old phrase. Mr. Brenton has been with us but a
short time," continued Ferris, "and so you know, Speed, you can, hardly
expect him to answer your inevitable question."
"What part of the country are you from?" asked Speed.
"Cincinnati," answered Brenton, feeling almost as if he were an American
tourist doing the continent of Europe.
"Cincinnati, eh? Well, I congratulate you. I do not know any place in
America that I would sooner die in, as they call it, than Cincinnati.
You see, I am a Chicago man myself."
Brenton did not like the jocular familiarity of the newspaper man, and
found himself rather astonished to learn that in the spirit-world there
were likes and dislikes, just as on earth.
"Chicago is a very enterprising city," he said, in a non-committal way.
"Chicago, my dear sir," said Speed, earnestly, "is _the_ city. You will
see that Chicago is going to be the great city of the world before you
are a hundred years older. By the way, Ferris," said the Chicago man,
suddenly recollecting something, "I have got Sommers over here with me."
"Ah!" said Ferris; "doing him any good?"
"Well, precious little, as far as I can see."
"Perhaps it would interest Mr. Brenton to meet him," said Ferris. "I
think, Brenton, you asked me a while ago if there was any hell here, or
any punishment. Mr. Speed can show you a man in hell."
"Really?" asked Brenton.
"Yes," said Speed; "I think if ever a man was in misery, his is. The
trouble with Sommers was this. He--well, he died of delirium tremens,
and so, of course, you know what the matter was. Sommers had drunk
Chicago whisky for thirty-five years straight along, and never added to
it the additional horror of Chicago water. You see what his condition
became, both physical and mental. Many people tried to reform Sommers,
because he was really a brilliant man; but it was no use. Thirst had
become a disease with him, and from the mental part of that disease,
although his physical yearning is now gone of course, he suffers.
Sommers would give his whole future for one glass of good old Kentucky
whisky. He sees it on the counters, he sees men drink it, and he stands
beside them in agony. That's why I brought him over here. I thought that
he wouldn't see the colour of whisky as it sparkles in the glass; but
now he is in the Cafe Quadra watching men drink. You may see him sitting
there with all the agony of unsatisfied desire gleaming from his face."
"And what do you do with a man like that?" asked Brenton.
"Do? Well, to tell the truth, there is nothing _to_ do. I took him away
from Chicago, hoping to ease his trouble a little; but it has had no
"It will come out all right by-and-by," said Ferris, who noticed the
pained look on Brenton's face. "It is the period of probation that
he has to pass through. It will wear off. He merely goes through the
agonies he would have suffered on earth if he had suddenly been deprived
of his favourite intoxicant."
"Well," said Speed, "you won't come with me, then? All right, good-bye.
I hope to see you again, Mr. Brenton," and with that they separated.
Brenton spent two or three days in Venice, but all the time the old home
hunger was upon him. He yearned for news of Cincinnati. He wanted to be
back, and several times the wish brought him there, but he instantly
returned. At last he said to Ferris--
"I am tired. I must go home. I have _got_ to see how things are going."
"I wouldn't if I were you," replied Ferris.
"No, I know you wouldn't. Your temperament is indifferent. I would
rather be miserable with knowledge than happy in ignorance. Good-bye."
It was evening when he found himself in Cincinnati. The weather was
bright-and clear, and apparently cold. Men's feet crisped on the frozen
pavement, and the streets had that welcome, familiar look which they
always have to the returned traveller when he reaches the city he calls
his home. The newsboys were rushing through the streets yelling their
papers at the top of their voices. He heard them, but paid little
"All about the murder! Latest edition! All about the poison case!"
He felt that he must have a glimpse at a paper, and, entering the office
of an hotel where a man was reading one, he glanced over his shoulder
at the page before him, and was horror-stricken to see the words in
[Illustration: THE BRENTON MURDER. _The Autopsy shows that Morphine was
the Poison used. Enough found to have killed a Dozen Men. Mrs. Brenton
arrested for Committing the Horrible Deed_.]
For a moment Brenton was so bewildered and amazed at the awful headlines
which he read, that he could hardly realize what had taken place.
The fact that he had been poisoned, although it gave him a strange
sensation, did not claim his attention as much as might have been
thought. Curiously enough he was more shocked at finding himself, as
it were, the talk of the town, the central figure of a great newspaper
sensation. But the thing that horrified him was the fact that his wife
had been arrested for his murder. His first impulse was to go to her at
once, but he next thought it better to read what the paper said about
the matter, so as to become possessed of all the facts. The headlines,
he said to himself, often exaggerated things, and there was a
possibility that the body of the article would not bear out the naming
announcement above it. But as he read on and on, the situation seemed
to become more and more appalling. He saw that his friends had been
suspicious of his sudden death, and had insisted on a post-mortem
examination. That examination had been conducted by three of the most
eminent physicians of Cincinnati, and the three doctors had practically
agreed that the deceased, in the language of the verdict, had come to
his death through morphia poisoning, and the coroner's jury had brought
in a verdict that "the said William Brenton had been poisoned by some
person unknown." Then the article went on to state how suspicion had
gradually fastened itself upon his wife, and at last her arrest had been
ordered. The arrest had taken place that day.
After reading this, Brenton was in an agony of mind. He pictured his
dainty and beautiful wife in a stone cell in the city prison. He foresaw
the horrors of the public trial, and the deep grief and pain which
[Illustration: _Mrs. Brenton_.]
the newspaper comments on the case would cause to a woman educated and
refined. Of course, Brenton had not the slightest doubt in his own mind
about the result of the trial. His wife would be triumphantly acquitted;
but, all the same, the terrible suspense which she must suffer in the
meanwhile would not be compensated for by the final verdict of the jury.
Brenton at once went to the jail, and wandered through that gloomy
building, searching for his wife. At last he found her, but it was in
a very comfortable room in the sheriffs residence. The terror and the
trials of the last few days had aged her perceptibly, and it cut Brenton
to the heart to think that he stood there before her, and could not by
any means say a soothing word that she would understand. That she had
wept many bitter tears since the terrible Christmas morning was evident;
there were dark circles under her beautiful eyes that told of sleepless
nights. She sat in a comfortable armchair, facing the window; and looked
steadily out at the dreary winter scene with eyes that apparently saw
nothing. Her hands lay idly on her lap, and now and then she caught her
breath in a way that was half a sob and half a gasp.
Presently the sheriff himself entered the room.
"Mrs. Brenton," he said, "there is a gentleman here who wishes to see
you. Mr. Roland, he tells me his name is, an old friend of yours. Do you
care to see any one?"
The lady turned her head slowly round, and looked at the sheriff for a
moment, seemingly not understanding what he said. Finally she answered,
"Roland? Oh, Stephen! Yes, I shall be very glad to see him. Ask him to
come in, please."
The next moment Stephen Roland entered, and somehow the fact that he had
come to console Mrs. Brenton did not at all please the invisible man who
stood between them.
"My dear Mrs. Brenton," began Roland, "I hope you are feeling better
to-day? Keep up your courage, and be brave. It is only for a very short
time. I have retained the noted criminal lawyers, Benham and Brown, for
the defence. You could not possibly have better men."
At the word "criminal" Mrs. Brenton shuddered.
"Alice," continued Roland, sitting down near her, and drawing his chair
closer to her, "tell me that you will not lose your courage. I want you
to be brave, for the sake of your friends."
He took her listless hand in his own, and she did not withdraw it.
Brenton felt passing over him the pangs of impotent rage, as he saw this
act on the part of Roland.
Roland had been an unsuccessful suitor for the hand which he now held
in his own, and Brenton thought it the worst possible taste, to say the
least, that he should take advantage now of her terrible situation to
ingratiate himself into her favour.
The nearest approach to a quarrel that Brenton and his wife had had
during their short six months of wedded life was on the subject of the
man who now held her hand in his own. It made Brenton impatient to think
that a woman with all her boasted insight into character, her instincts
as to what was right and what was wrong, had such little real intuition
that she did not see into the character of the man whom they were
discussing; but a woman never thinks it a crime for a man to have been
in love with her, whatever opinion of that man her husband may hold.
"It is awful! awful! awful!" murmured the poor lady, as the tears again
rose to her eyes.
"Of course it is," said Roland; "it is particularly awful that they
should accuse you, of all persons in the world, of this so-called crime.
For my part I do not believe that he was poisoned at all, but we will
soon straighten things out. Benham and Brown will give up everything
and devote their whole attention to this case until it is finished.
Everything will be done that money or friends can do, and all that we
ask is that you keep up your courage, and do not be downcast with the
seeming awfulness of the situation."
Mrs. Brenton wept silently, but made no reply. It was evident, however,
that she was consoled by the words and the presence of her visitor.
Strange as it may appear, this fact enraged Brenton, although he had
gone there for the very purpose of cheering and comforting his wife. All
the bitterness he had felt before against his former rival was revived;
and his rage was the more agonizing because it was inarticulate. Then
there flashed over him Ferris's sinister advice to leave things alone in
the world that he had left. He felt that he could stand this no longer,
and the next instant he found himself again in the wintry streets of
The name of the lawyers, Benham and Brown, kept repeating itself in his
mind, and he resolved to go to their office and hear, if he could, what
preparations were being made for the defence of a woman whom he knew to
be innocent. He found, when he got to the office of these noted lawyers,
that the two principals were locked in their private room; and going
there, he found them discussing the case with the coolness and
impersonal feeling that noted lawyers have even when speaking of issues
that involve life or death.
"Yes," Benham was saying, "I think that, unless anything new turns up,
that is the best line of defence we can adopt."
"What do you think might turn up?" asked Brown.
"Well, you can never tell in these cases. They may find something
else--they may find the poison, for instance, or the package that
contained it. Perhaps a druggist will remember having sold it to this
woman, and then, of course, we shall have to change our plans. I need
not say that it is strictly necessary in this case to give out no
opinions whatever to newspaper men. The papers will be full of rumours,
and it is just as well if we can keep our line of defence hidden until
the time for action comes."
"Still," said Brown, who was the younger partner, "it is as well to keep
in with the newspaper fellows; they'll be here as soon as they find we
have taken charge of the defence."
"Well, I have no doubt you can deal with them in such a way as to give
them something to write up, and yet not disclose anything we do not wish
"I think you can trust me to do that," said Brown, with a self-satisfied
"I shall leave that part of the matter entirely in your hands," replied
Benham. "It is better not to duplicate or mix matters, and if any
newspaper man comes to see me I will refer him to you. I will say I know
nothing of the case whatever."
"Very well," answered Brown. "Now, between ourselves, what do you think
of the case?"
"Oh, it will make a great sensation. I think it will probably be one of
the most talked-of cases that we have ever been connected with."
"Yes, but what do you think of her guilt or innocence?"
"As to that," said Benham, calmly, "I haven't the slightest doubt. She
As he said this, Brenton, forgetting himself for a moment, sprang
forward as if to strangle the lawyer. The statement Benham had made
seemed the most appalling piece of treachery. That men should take a
woman's money for defending her, and actually engage in a case when they
believed their client guilty, appeared to Brenton simply infamous.
"I agree with you," said Brown. "Of course she was the only one to
benefit by his death. The simple fool willed everything to her, and she
knew it; and his doing so is the more astounding when you remember he
was quite well aware that she had a former lover whom she would gladly
have married if he had been as rich as Brenton. The supreme idiocy of
some men as far as their wives are concerned is something awful."
"Yes," answered Benham, "it is. But I tell you, Brown, she is no
ordinary woman. The very conception of that murder had a stroke of
originality about it that I very much admire. I do not remember anything
like it in the annals of crime. It is the true way in which a murder
should be committed. The very publicity of the occasion was a safeguard.
Think of poisoning a man at a dinner that he has given himself, in the
midst of a score of
friends. I tell you that there was a dash of bravery about it that
commands my admiration."
"Do you imagine Roland had anything to do with it?"
"Well, I had my doubts about that at first, but I think he is innocent,
although from what I know of the man he will not hesitate to share the
proceeds of the crime. You mark my words, they will be married within
a year from now if she is acquitted. I believe Roland knows her to be
"I thought as much," said Brown, "by his actions here, and by some
remarks he let drop. Anyhow, our credit in the affair will be all the
greater if we succeed in getting her off. Yes," he continued, rising and
pushing back his chair, "Madam Brenton is a murderess."
Brenton found himself once more in the streets of Cincinnati, in a state
of mind that can hardly be described. Rage and grief struggled for the
mastery, and added to the tumult of these passions was the uncertainty
as to what he should do, or what he _could_ do. He could hardly ask the
advice of Ferris again, for his whole trouble arose from his neglect of
the counsel that gentleman had already given him. In his new sphere he
did not know where to turn. He found himself wondering whether in the
spirit-land there was any firm of lawyers who could advise him, and he
remembered then how singularly ignorant he was regarding the conditions
of existence in the world to which he now belonged. However, he felt
that he must consult with somebody, and Ferris was the only one to whom
he could turn. A moment later he was face to face with him.
"Mr. Ferris," he said, "I am in the most grievous trouble, and I come to
you in the hope that, if you cannot help me, you can at least advise me
what to do."
"If your trouble has come," answered Ferris, with a shade of irony in
his voice, "through following the advice that I have already given you,
I shall endeavour, as well as I am able, to help you out of it."
"You know very well," cried Brenton, hotly, "that my whole trouble
has occurred through neglecting your advice, or, at least, though
deliberately not following it. I _could_ not follow it."
"Very well, then," said Ferris, "I am not surprised that you are in a
difficulty. You must remember that such a crisis is an old story with us
"But, my dear sir," said Brenton, "look at the appalling condition of
things, the knowledge of which has just come to me. It seems I was
poisoned, but of course that doesn't matter. I feel no resentment
against the wretch who did it. But the terrible thing is that my wife
has been arrested for the crime, and I have just learned that her own
lawyers, actually believe her guilty."
"That fact," said Ferris, calmly, "will not interfere with their
eloquent pleading when the case comes to trial."
Brenton glared at the man who was taking things so coolly, and who
proved himself so unsympathetic; but an instant after he realized, the
futility of quarrelling with the only person who could give him advice,
so he continued, with what patience he could command--
"The situation is this: My wife has been arrested for the crime of
murdering me. She is now in the custody of the sheriff. Her trouble and
anxiety of mind are fearful to contemplate."
"My dear sir," said Ferris, "there is no reason why you or anybody else
should contemplate it."
"How can you talk in that cold-blooded way?" cried Brenton, indignantly.
"Could you see _your_ wife, or any one _you_ held dear, incarcerated for
a dreadful crime, and yet remain calm and collected, as you now appear
to be when you hear of another's misfortune?"
"My dear fellow," said Ferris, "of course it is not to be expected that
one who has had so little experience with this existence should have any
sense of proportion. You appear to be speaking quite seriously. You do
not seem at all to comprehend the utter triviality of all this."
"Good gracious!" cried Brenton, "do you call it a trivial thing that a
woman is in danger of her life for a crime which she never committed?"
"If she is innocent," said the other, in no way moved by the indignation
of his comrade, "surely that state of things will be brought out in the
courts, and no great harm will be done, even looking at things from the
standpoint of the world you have left. But I want you to get into the
habit of looking at things from the standpoint of this world, and not
of the other. Suppose that what you would call the worst should
happen--suppose she is hanged--what then?"
Brenton stood simply speechless with indignation at this brutal remark.
"If you will just look at things correctly," continued Ferris,
imperturbably, "you will see that there is probably a moment of anguish,
perhaps not even that moment, and then your wife is here with you in the
land of spirits. I am sure that is a consummation devoutly to be wished.
Even a man in your state of mind must see the reasonableness of this.
Now, looking at the question in what you would call its most serious
aspect, see how little it amounts to. It isn't worth a moment's thought,
whichever way it goes."
"You think nothing, then, of the disgrace of such a death--of the bitter
injustice of it?"
[Illustration: _The broken toy._]
"When you were in the world did you ever see a child cry over a broken
toy? Did the sight pain you to any extent? Did you not know that a new
toy could be purchased that would quite obliterate all thoughts of the
other? Did the simple griefs of childhood carry any deep and lasting
consternation to the mind of a grown-up man? Of course, it did not. You
are sensible enough to know that. Well, we here in this world look on
the pain and struggles and trials of people in the world you have left,
just as an aged man looks on the tribulations of children over a broken
doll. That is all it really amounts to. That is what I mean when I say
that you have not yet got your sense of proportion. Any grief and misery
there is in the world you have left is of such an ephemeral, transient
nature, that when we think for a moment of the free, untrammelled,
and painless life there is beyond, those petty troubles sink into
insignificance. My dear fellow, be sensible, take my advice. I have
really a strong interest in you, and I advise you, entirely for your own
welfare, to forget all about it. Very soon you will have something much
more important to do than lingering around the world you have left. If
your wife comes amongst us I am sure you will be glad to welcome her,
and to teach her the things that you will have already found out of your
new life. If she does not appear, then you will know that, even from the
old-world standpoint, things have gone what you would call 'all right.'
Let these trivial matters go, and attend to the vastly more important
concerns that will soon engage your attention here."
Ferris talked earnestly, and it was evident, even to Brenton, that he
meant what he said. It was hard to find a pretext for a quarrel with a
man at once so calm and so perfectly sure of himself.
"We will not talk any more about it," said Brenton. "I presume people
here agree to differ, just as they did in the world we have both left."
"Certainly, certainly," answered Ferris. "Of course, you have just heard
my opinion; but you will find myriads of others who do not share it with
me. You will meet a great many who are interested in the subject of
communication with the world they have left. You will, of course, excuse
me when I say that I consider such endeavours not worth talking about."
"Do you know any one who is interested in that sort of thing? and can
you give me an introduction to him?"
"Oh! for that matter," said Ferris, "you have had an introduction to one
of the most enthusiastic investigators of the subject. I refer to Mr.
John Speed, late of Chicago."
"Ah!" said Brenton, rather dubiously. "I must confess that I was
not very favourably impressed with Mr. Speed. Probably I did him an
"You certainly did," said Ferris. "You will find Speed a man well worth
knowing, even if he does waste himself on such futile projects as a
scheme for communicating with a community so evanescent as that of
Chicago. You will like Speed better the more you know him. He really is
very philanthropic, and has Sommers on his hands just now. From what he
said after you left Venice, I imagine he does not entertain the same
feeling toward you as you do toward him. I would see Speed if I were
"I will think about it," said Brenton, as they separated.
To know that a man thinks well of a person is no detriment to further
acquaintance with that man, even if the first impressions have not been
favourable; and after Ferris told Brenton that Speed had thought well of
him, Brenton found less difficulty in seeking the Chicago enthusiast.
"I have been in a good deal of trouble," Brenton said to Speed, "and
have been talking to Ferris about it. I regret to say that he gave me
very little encouragement, and did not seem at all to appreciate my
feelings in the matter."
"Oh, you mustn't mind Ferris," said Speed. "He is a first-rate fellow,
but he is as cold and unsympathetic as--well, suppose we say as an
oyster. His great hobby is non-intercourse with the world we have left.
Now, in that I don't agree with him, and there are thousands who don't
agree with him. I admit that there are cases where a man is more unhappy
if he frequents the old world than he would be if he left it alone. But
then there are other cases where just the reverse is true. Take my own
experience, for example; I take a peculiar pleasure in rambling around
Chicago. I admit that it is a grievance to me, as an old newspaper man,
to see the number of scoops I could have on my esteemed contemporaries,
"Scoop? What is that?" asked Brenton, mystified.
"Why, a scoop is a beat, you know."
"Yes, but I don't know. What is a beat?"
"A beat or a scoop, my dear fellow, is the getting of a piece of news
that your contemporary does not obtain. You never were in the newspaper
business? Well, sir, you missed it. Greatest business in the world. You
know everything that is going on long before anybody else does, and the
way you can reward your friends and jump with both feet on your enemies
is one of the delights of existence down there."
"Well, what I wanted to ask you was this," said Brenton. "You have made
a speciality of finding out whether there could be any communication
between one of us, for instance, and one who is an inhabitant of the
other world. Is such communication possible?"
"I have certainly devoted some time to it, but I can't say that my
success has been flattering. My efforts have been mostly in the line of
news. I have come on some startling information which my facilities here
gave me access to, and I confess I have tried my best to put some of the
boys on to it. But there is a link loose somewhere. Now, what is your
trouble? Do you want to get a message to anybody?"
"My trouble is this," said Brenton, briefly, "I am here because a few
days ago I was poisoned."
"George Washington!" cried the other, "you don't say so! Have the
newspapers got on to the fact?"
"I regret to say that they have."
"What an item that would have been if one paper had got hold of it and
the others hadn't! I suppose they all got on to it at the same time?"
"About that," said Brenton, "I don't know, and I must confess that I do
not care very much. But here is the trouble--my wife has been arrested
for my murder, and she is as innocent as I am."
"Sure of that?"
"_Sure_ of it?" cried the other indignantly. "Of course I am sure of
"Then who is the guilty person?"
"Ah, that," said Brenton, "I do not yet know."
"Then how can you be sure she is not guilty?"
"If you talk like that," exclaimed Brenton, "I have nothing more to
"Now, don't get offended, I beg of you. I am merely looking at this from
a newspaper standpoint, you know. You must remember it is not you
who will decide the matter, but a jury of your very stupid
fellow-countrymen. Now, you can never tell what a jury _will_ do, except
that it will do something idiotic. Therefore, it seems to me that the
very first step to be taken is to find out who the guilty party is.
Don't you see the force of that?"
"Yes, I do."
"Very well, then. Now, what were the circumstances of this crime? who
was to profit by your death?"
Brenton winced at this.
"I see how it is," said the other, "and I understand why you don't
answer. Now--you'll excuse me if I am frank--your wife was the one who
benefited most by your death, was she not?"
"No," cried the other indignantly, "she was not the one. That is what
the lawyers said. Why in the world should she want to poison me, when
she had all my wealth at her command as it was?"
"Yes, that's a strong point," said Speed. "You were a reasonably good
husband, I suppose? Rather generous with the cash?"
"Generous?" cried the other. "My wife always had everything she wanted."
"Ah, well, there was no--you'll excuse me, I am sure--no former lover in
the case, was there?"
Again Brenton winced, and he thought of Roland sitting beside his wife
with her hand in his.
"I see," said Speed; "you needn't answer. Now what were the
"They were these: At a dinner which I gave, where some twenty or
twenty-five of my friends were assembled, poison, it appears, was put
into my cup of coffee. That is all I know of it."
"Who poured out that cup of coffee?"
"My wife did."
"Ah! Now, I don't for a moment say she is guilty, remember; but you must
admit that, to a stupid jury, the case _might_ look rather bad against
"Well, granted that it does, there is all the more need, that I should
come to her assistance if possible."
"Certainly, certainly!" said Speed. "Now, I'll tell you what we have
to do. We must get, if possible, one of the very brightest Chicago
reporters on the track of this thing, and we have to get him on the
track of it early. Come with me to Chicago. We will try an experiment,
and I am sure you will lend your mind entirely to the effort. We must
act in conjunction in this affair, and you are just the man I've been
wanting, some one who is earnest and who has something at stake in the
matter. We may fail entirely, but I think it's worth the trying. Will
"Certainly," said Brenton; "and I cannot tell you how much I appreciate
your interest and sympathy."
Arriving at a brown stone building on the corner of two of the principal
streets in Chicago, Brenton and Speed ascended quickly to one of the top
floors. It was nearly midnight, and two upper stories of the huge dark
building were brilliantly lighted, as was shown on the outside by the
long rows of glittering windows. They entered a room where a man was
seated at a table, with coat and vest thrown off, and his hat set well
back on his head. Cold as it was outside, it was warm in this man's
room, and the room was blue with smoke. A black corn-cob pipe was in his
teeth, and the man was writing away as if for dear life, on sheets of
coarse white copy paper, stopping now and then to fill up his pipe or to
relight it after it had gone out.
"There," said Speed, waving his hand towards the writer with a certain
air of proprietory pride, "there sits one of the very cleverest men on
the Chicago press. That fellow, sir, is gifted with a nose for news
which has no equal in America. He will ferret out a case that he once
starts on with an unerringness that would charm you. Yes, sir, I got him
his present situation on this paper, and I can tell you it was a good
"He must have been a warm friend of yours?" said Brenton, indifferently,
as if he did not take much interest in the eulogy.
"Quite the contrary," said Speed. "He was a warm enemy, made it mighty
warm for _me_ sometimes. He was on an opposition paper, but I tell you,
although I was no chicken in newspaper business, that man would scoop
the daylight out of me any time he tried. So, to get rid of opposition,
I got the managing editor to appoint him to a place on our paper; and
I tell you, he has never regretted it. Yes, sir, there sits George
Stratton, a man who knows his business. Now," he said, "let us
concentrate our attention on him. First let us see whether, by putting
our whole minds to it, we can make any impression on _his_ mind
whatever. You see how busily he is engaged. He is thoroughly absorbed in
his work. That is George all over. Whatever his assignment is, George
throws himself right into it, and thinks of nothing else until it is
finished. _Now_ then."
In that dingy, well-lighted room George Stratton sat busily pencilling
out the lines that were to appear in next morning's paper. He was
evidently very much engrossed in his task, as Speed had said. If he
had looked about him, which he did not, he would have said that he was
entirely alone. All at once his attention seemed to waver, and he passed
his hand over his brow, while perplexity came into his face. Then he
noticed that his pipe was out, and, knocking the ashes from it by
rapping the bowl on the side of the table, he filled it with an
absent-mindedness unusual with him. Again he turned to his writing, and
again he passed his hand over his brow. Suddenly, without, any apparent
cause, he looked first to the right and then to the left of him. Once
more he tried to write, but, noticing his pipe was out, he struck
another match and nervously puffed away, until clouds of blue smoke rose
around him. There was a look of annoyance and perplexity in his face as
he bent resolutely to his writing. The door opened, and a man appeared
on the threshold.
"Anything more about the convention, George?" he said.
"Yes; I am just finishing this. Sort of pen pictures, you know."
"Perhaps you can let me have what you have done. I'll fix it up."
"All right," said Stratton, bunching up the manuscript in front of him,
and handing it to the city editor.
That functionary looked at the number of pages, and then at the writer.
"Much more of this, George?" he said. "We'll be a little short of room
in the morning, you know."
"Well," said the other, sitting back in his chair, "it is pretty good
stuff that. Folks always like the pen pictures of men engaged in the
skirmish better than the reports of what most of them say."
"Yes," said the city editor, "that's so."
"Still," said Stratton, "we could cut it off at the last page. Just let
me see the last two pages, will you?"
These were handed to him, and, running his eye through them, he drew his
knife across one of the pages, and put at the bottom the cabalistic mark
which indicated the end of the copy.
"There! I think I will let it go at that. Old Rickenbeck don't amount to
much, anyhow. We'll let him go."
"All right," said the city editor. "I think we won't want anything more
[Illustration: "_She's pretty as a picture_."]
Stratton put his hands behind his head, with his fingers interlaced, and
leaned back in his chair, placing his heels upon the table before him.
A thought-reader, looking at his face, could almost have followed the
theme that occupied his mind. Suddenly bringing his feet down with a
crash to the floor, he rose and went into the city editor's room.
"See here," he said. "Have you looked into that Cincinnati case at all?"
"What Cincinnati case?" asked the local editor, looking up.
"Why, that woman who is up for poisoning her husband."
"Oh yes; we had something of it in the despatches this morning. It's
rather out of the local line, you know."
"Yes, I know it is. But it isn't out of the paper's line. I tell you
that case is going to make a sensation. She's pretty as a picture. Been
married only six months, and it seems to be a dead sure thing that
she poisoned her husband. That trial's going to make racy reading,
especially if they bring in a verdict of guilty."
The city editor looked interested.
"Want to go down there, George?"
"Well, do you know, I think it'll pay."
"Let me see, this is the last day of the convention, isn't it? And Clark
comes back from his vacation to-morrow. Well, if you think it's worth
it, take a trip down there, and look the ground over, and give us a
special article that we can use on the first day of the trial."
"I'll do it," said George.
* * * * *
Speed looked at Brenton.
"What would old Ferris say _now_, eh?"
Next morning George Stratton was on the railway train speeding towards
Cincinnati. As he handed to the conductor his mileage book, he did not
say to him, lightly transposing the old couplet--
"Here, railroad man, take thrice thy fee,
For spirits twain do ride with me."
George Stratton was a practical man, and knew nothing of spirits, except
those which were in a small flask in his natty little valise.
When he reached Cincinnati, he made straight for the residence of the
sheriff. He felt that his first duty was to become friends with such an
important official. Besides this, he wished to have an interview with
the prisoner. He had arranged in his mind, on the way there, just how he
would write a preliminary article that would whet the appetite of the
readers of the Chicago _Argus_ for any further developments that might
occur during and after the trial. He would write the whole thing in the
form of a story.
First, there would be a sketch of the life of Mrs. Brenton and her
husband. This would be number one, and above it would be the Roman
numeral I. Under the heading II. would be a history of the crime. Under
III. what had occurred afterwards--the incidents that had led suspicion
towards the unfortunate woman, and that sort of thing. Under the numeral
IV. would be his interview with the prisoner, if he were fortunate
enough to get one. Under V. he would give the general opinion of
Cincinnati on the crime, and on the guilt or innocence of Mrs. Brenton.
This article he already saw in his mind's eye occupying nearly half a
page of the _Argus_. All would be in leaded type, and written in a style
and manner that would attract attention, for he felt that
[Illustration: "_Raising the veil_."]
he was first on the ground, and would not have the usual rush in
preparing his copy which had been the bane of his life. It would give
the _Argus_ practically the lead in this case, which he was convinced
would become one of national importance.
The sheriff received him courteously, and, looking at the card he
presented, saw the name Chicago _Argus_ in the corner. Then he stood
visibly on his guard--an attitude assumed by all wise officials when
they find themselves brought face to face with a newspaper man; for
they know, however carefully an article may be prepared, it will likely
contain some unfortunate overlooked phrase which may have a damaging
effect in a future political campaign.
"I wanted to see you," began Stratton, coming straight to the point, "in
reference to the Brenton murder."
"I may say at once," replied the sheriff, "that if you wish an interview
with the prisoner, it is utterly impossible, because her lawyers, Benham
and Brown, have positively forbidden her to see a newspaper man."
"That shows," said Stratton, "they are wise men who understand their
business. Nevertheless, I wish to have an interview with Mrs. Brenton.
But what I wanted to say to you is this: I believe the case will be very
much talked about, and that before many weeks are over. Of course you
know the standing the _Argus_ has in newspaper circles. What it says
will have an influence, even over the Cincinnati press. I think you will
admit that. Now a great many newspaper men consider an official their
natural enemy. I do not; at least, I do not until I am forced to. Any
reference that I may make to you I am more than willing to submit to you
before it goes to Chicago. I will give you my word, if you want it, that
nothing will be said referring to your official position, or to yourself
personally, that you do not see before it appears in print. Of course
you will be up for re-election. I never met a sheriff who wasn't."
The sheriff smiled at this, and did not deny it.
"Very well. Now, I may tell you my belief is that this case is going
to have a powerful influence on your re-election. Here is a young and
pretty woman who is to be tried for a terrible crime. Whether she is
guilty or innocent, public sympathy is going to be with her. If I were
in your place, I would prefer to be known as her friend rather than as
"My dear sir," said the sheriff, "my official position puts me in the
attitude of neither friend nor enemy of the unfortunate woman. I have
simply a certain duty to do, and that duty I intend to perform."
"Oh, that's all right!" exclaimed the newspaper man, jauntily. "I, for
one, am not going to ask you to take a step outside your duties; but an
official may do his duty, and yet, at the same time, do a friendly act
for a newspaper man, or even for a prisoner. In the language of the old
chestnut, 'If you don't help me, don't help the bear.' That's all I
"You maybe sure, Mr. Stratton, that anything I can do to help you I
shall be glad to do; and now let me give you a hint. If you want to see
Mrs. Brenton, the best thing is to get permission from her lawyers. If
I were you I would not see Benham--he's rather a hard nut, Benham is,
although you needn't tell him I said so. You get on the right side of
Brown. Brown has some political aspirations himself, and he does not
want to offend a man on so powerful a paper as the _Argus_, even if it
is not a Cincinnati paper. Now, if you make him the same offer you have
made to me, I think it will be all right. If he sees your copy before it
goes into print, and if you keep your word with him that nothing will
appear that he does _not_ see, I think you will succeed in getting an
interview with Mrs. Brenton. If you bring me a note from Brown, I shall
be very glad to allow you to see her."
Stratton thanked the sheriff for his hint. He took down in his note-book
the address of the lawyers, and the name especially of Mr. Brown. The
two men shook hands, and Stratton felt that they understood each other.
When Mr. Stratton was ushered into the private office of Brown, and
handed that gentleman his card, he noticed the lawyer perceptibly freeze
"Ahem," said the legal gentleman; "you will excuse me if I say that my
time is rather precious. Did you wish to see me professionally?"
"Yes," replied Stratton, "that is, from a newspaper standpoint of the
"Ah," said the other, "in reference to what?"
"To the Brenton case."
"Well, my dear sir, I have had, very reluctantly, to refuse information
that I would have been happy to give, if I could, to our own newspaper
men; and so I may say to you at once that I scarcely think it will
be possible for me to be of any service to an outside paper like the
"Local newspaper men," said Stratton, "represent local fame. That
you already possess. I represent national fame, which, if you will
excuse my saying so, you do not yet possess. The fact that I am in
Cincinnati to-day, instead of in Chicago, shows what we Chicago people
think of the Cincinnati case. I believe, and the _Argus_ believes, that
this case is going to be one of national importance. Now, let me ask you
one question. Will you state frankly what your objection is to having
a newspaper man, for instance, interview Mrs. Brenton, or get any
information relating to this case from her or others whom you have the
power of controlling?"
"I shall answer that question," said Brown, "as frankly as you put
it. You are a man of the world, and know, of course, that we are all
selfish, and in business matters look entirely after our own interests.
My interest in this case is to defend my client. Your interest in
this case is to make a sensational article. You want to get facts if
possible, but, in any event, you want to write up a readable column or
two for your paper. Now, if I allowed you to see Mrs. Brenton, she might
say something to you, and you might publish it, that would not only
endanger her chances, but would seriously embarrass us, as her lawyers,
in our defence of the case."
"You have stated the objection very plainly and forcibly," said
Stratton, with a look of admiration, as if the powerful arguments of
the lawyer had had a great effect on him. "Now, if I understand your
argument, it simply amounts to this, that you would have no objection to
my interviewing Mrs. Brenton if you have the privilege of editing the
copy. In other words, if nothing were printed but what you approve
of, you would not have the slightest hesitancy about allowing me that
"No, I don't know that I would," admitted the lawyer.
"Very well, then. Here is my proposition to you: I am here to look after
the interests of our paper in this particular case. The _Argus_ is
probably going to be the first paper outside of Cincinnati that will
devote a large amount of space to the Brenton trial, in addition to what
is received from the Associated Press dispatches. Now you can give me a
great many facilities in this matter if you care to do so, and in return
I am perfectly willing to submit to you every line of copy that concerns
you or your client before it is sent, and I give you my word of honour
that nothing shall appear but what you have seen and approved of. If
you want to cut out something that I think is vitally important, then I
shall tell you frankly that I intend to print it, but will modify it as
much as I possibly can to suit your views."
"I see," said the lawyer. "In other words, as you have just remarked,
I am to give you special facilities in this matter, and then, when you
find out some fact which I wish kept secret, and which you have obtained
because of the facilities I have given to you, you will quite frankly
tell me that it must go in, and then, of course, I shall be helpless
except to debar you from any further facilities, as you call them. No,
sir, I do not care to make any such bargain."
"Well, suppose I strike out that clause of agreement, and, say to you
that I will send nothing but what you approve of, would you then write
me a note to the sheriff and allow me to see the prisoner?"
"I am sorry to say"--the lawyer hesitated for a moment, and glanced at
the card, then added--"Mr. Stratton, that I do not see my way clear to
granting your request."
"I think," said Stratton, rising, "that you are doing yourself an
injustice. You are refusing--I may as well tell you first as last--what
is a great privilege. Now, you have had some experience in your
business, and I have had some experience in mine, and I beg to inform
you that men who are much more prominent in the history of their country
than any one I can at present think of in Cincinnati, have tried to balk
me in the pursuit of my business, and have failed."
"In that matter, of course," said Brown, "I must take my chances. I
don't see the use of prolonging this interview. As you have been so
frank as to--I won't say threaten, perhaps warn is the better word--as
you have been so good as to warn me, I may, before we part, just give
_you_ a word of caution. Of course we, in Cincinnati, are perfectly
willing to admit that Chicago people are the smartest on earth, but I
may say that if you print a word in your paper which is untrue and which
is damaging to our side of the case, or if you use any methods that
are unlawful in obtaining the information you so much desire, you will
certainly get your paper into trouble, and you will run some little
personal risk yourself."
"Well, as you remarked a moment ago, Mr. Brown, I shall have to take the
chances of that. I am here to get the news, and if I don't succeed it
will be the first time in my life."
"Very well, sir," said the lawyer. "I wish you good evening."
"Just one thing more," said the newspaper man, "before I leave you."
"My dear sir," said the lawyer, impatiently, "I am very busy. I've
already given you a liberal share of my time. I must request that this
interview end at once."
"I thought," said Mr. Stratton, calmly, "that perhaps you might be
interested in the first article that I am going to write. I shall devote
one column in the _Argus_ of the day after to-morrow to your defence of
the case, and whether your theory of defence is a tenable one or not."
Mr. Brown pushed back his chair and looked earnestly at the young man.
That individual was imperturbably pulling on his gloves, and at the
moment was buttoning one of them.
"Our _defence_!" cried the lawyer. "What do you know of our defence?"
"My dear sir," said Stratton, "I know _all_ about it."
"Sir, that is impossible. Nobody knows what our defence is to be except
Mr. Benham and myself."
"And Mr. Stratton, of the Chicago _Argus_," replied the young man, as he
buttoned his coat.
"May I ask, then, what the defence is?"
"Certainly," answered the Chicago man. "Your defence is that Mr. Brenton
was insane, and that he committed suicide."
Even Mr. Brown's habitual self-control, acquired by long years of
training in keeping his feelings out of sight, for the moment deserted
him. He drew his breath sharply, and cast a piercing glance at the young
man before him, who was critically watching the lawyer's countenance,
although he appeared to be entirely absorbed in buttoning his overcoat.
Then Mr. Brown gave a short, dry laugh.
"I have met a bluff before," he said carelessly; "but I should like to
know what makes you think that such is our defence?"
"_Think_!" cried the young man. "I don't think at all; I _know_ it."
"How do you know it?"
"Well, for one thing, I know it by your own actions a moment ago. What
first gave me an inkling of your defence was that book which is on
your table. It is Forbes Winslow on the mind and the brain; a very
interesting book, Mr. Brown, _very_ interesting indeed. It treats of
suicide, and the causes and conditions of the brain that will lead up
to it. It is a very good book, indeed, to study in such a case. Good
evening, Mr. Brown. I am sorry that we cannot co-operate in this
Stratton turned and walked toward the door, while the lawyer gazed after
him with a look of helpless astonishment on his face. As Stratton placed
his hand on the door knob, the lawyer seemed to wake up as from a dream.
"Stop!" he cried; "I will give you a letter that will admit you to Mrs.
"There!" said Speed to Brenton, triumphantly, "what do you think of
_that_? Didn't I say George Stratton was the brightest newspaper man in
Chicago? I tell you, his getting that letter from old Brown was one of
the cleverest bits of diplomacy I ever saw. There you had quickness of
perception, and nerve. All the time he was talking to old Brown he was
just taking that man's measure. See how coolly he acted while he was
drawing on his gloves and buttoning his coat as if ready to leave. Flung
that at Brown all of a sudden as quiet as if he was saying nothing at
all unusual, and all the time watching Brown out of the tail of his eye.
Well, sir, I must admit, that although I have known George Stratton for
years, I thought he was dished by that Cincinnati lawyer. I thought that
George was just gracefully covering up his defeat, and there he upset
old Brown's apple-cart in the twinkling of an eye. Now, you see the
effect of all this. Brown has practically admitted to him what the line
of defence is. Stratton won't publish it, of course; he has promised not
to, but you see he can hold that over Brown's head, and get everything
he wants unless they change their defence."
"Yes," remarked Brenton, slowly, "he seems to be a very sharp newspaper
man indeed; but I don't like the idea of his going to interview my
"Why, what is there wrong about that?"
"Well, there is this wrong about it--that she in her depression may say
something that will tell against her."
"Even if she does, what of it? Isn't the lawyer going to see the letter
before it is sent to the paper?"
"I am not so sure about that. Do you think Stratton will show the
article to Brown if he gets what you call a scoop or a beat?"
"Why, of course he will," answered Speed, indignantly; "hasn't he given
him his word that he will?"
"Yes, I know he has," said Brenton, dubiously; "but he is a newspaper
"Certainly he is," answered Speed, with strong emphasis; "that is the
reason he will keep his word."
"I hope so, I hope so; but I must admit that the more I know you
newspaper men, the more I see the great temptation you are under to
preserve if possible the sensational features of an article."
"I'll bet you a drink--no, we can't do that," corrected Speed; "but you
shall see that, if Brown acts square with Stratton, he will keep his
word to the very letter with Brown. There is no use in our talking about
the matter here. Let us follow Stratton, and see what comes of the
"I think I prefer to go alone," said Brenton, coldly.
"Oh, as you like, as you like," answered the other, shortly. "I thought
you wanted my help in this affair; but if you don't, I am sure I shan't
"That's all right," said Brenton; "come along. By the way, Speed, what
do you think of that line of defence?"
"Well, I don't know enough of the circumstances of the case to know what
to think of it. It seems to me rather a good line."
"It can't be a good line when it is not true. It is certain to break
"That's so," said Speed; "but I'll bet you four dollars and a half that
they'll prove you a raving maniac before they are through with you.
They'll show very likely that you tried to poison yourself two or three
times; bring on a dozen of your friends to prove that they knew all your
life you were insane."
"Do you think they will?" asked Brenton, uneasily.
"Think it? Why, I am sure of it. You'll go down to posterity as one of
the most complete lunatics that ever, lived in Cincinnati. Oh, there
won't be anything left of you when _they_ get through with you."
Meanwhile, Stratton was making his way to the residence of the sheriff.
"Ah," said that official, when they met, "you got your letter, did you?
Well, I thought you would."
"If you had heard the conversation between my estimable friend Mr. Brown
and myself, up to the very last moment, you wouldn't have thought it."
"Well, Brown is generally very courteous towards newspaper men, and
that's one reason you see his name in the papers a great deal."
"If I were a Cincinnati newspaper man, I can assure you that his name
wouldn't appear very much in the columns of my paper."
"I am sorry to hear you say that. I thought Brown was very popular with
the newspaper men. You got the letter, though, did you?"
"Yes; I got it. Here it is. Read it."
The sheriff scanned the brief note over, and put it in his pocket.
"Just take a chair for a moment, will you, and I will see if Mrs.
Brenton is ready to receive you."
Stratton seated himself, and, pulling a paper from his pocket, was
busily reading when the sheriff again entered.
"I am sorry to say," he began, "after you have had all this trouble,
that Mrs. Brenton positively refuses to see you. You know I cannot
_compel_ a prisoner to meet any one. You understand that, of course."
"Perfectly," said Stratton, thinking for a moment. "See here, sheriff,
I have simply _got_ to have a talk with that woman. Now, can't you tell
her I knew her husband, or something of that sort? I'll make it all
right when I see her."
* * * * *
"The scoundrel!" said Brenton to Speed, as Stratton made this remark.
"My dear sir," said Speed, "don't you see he is just the man we want?
This is not the time to be particular."
"Yes, but think of the treachery and meanness of telling a poor
unfortunate woman that he was acquainted with her husband, who is only a
few days dead.".
"Now, see here," said Speed, "if you are going to look on matters in
this way you will be a hindrance and not a help in the affair. Don't you
appreciate the situation? Why, Mrs. Brenton's own lawyers, as you have
said, think her guilty. What, then, can they learn by talking with her,
or what good can they do her with their minds already prejudiced against
her? Don't you see that?"
Brenton made no answer to this, but it was evident he was very ill at
* * * * *
"Did you know her husband?" asked the sheriff.
"No, to tell you the truth, I never heard of him before. But I must see
this lady, both for my good and hers, and I am not going to let a little
thing like that stand between us. Won't you tell her that I have come
with a letter from her own lawyers? Just show her the letter, and say
that I will take up but very little of her time. I am sorry to ask this
much of you, but you see how I am placed."
"Oh, that's all right," said the sheriff, good-naturedly; "I shall be
very glad to do what you wish," and with that he once more disappeared.
The sheriff stayed away longer this time, and Stratton paced the room
impatiently. Finally, the official returned, and said--
"Mrs. Brenton has consented to see you. Come this way, please. You
will excuse me, I know," continued the sheriff, as they walked along
together, "but it is part of my duty to remain in the room, while you
are talking with Mrs. Brenton."
"Certainly, certainly," said Stratton; "I under- stand that."
"Very well; then, if I may make a suggestion, I would say this: you
should be prepared to ask just what you want to know, and do it all as
speedily as possible, for really Mrs. Brenton is in; a condition of
nervous exhaustion that renders it almost cruel to put her through any
"I understand that also," said Stratton; "but you must remember
that she has a very much harder trial to undergo in the future. I am
exceedingly anxious to get at the truth of this thing, and so, if it
seems to you that I am asking a lot of very unnecessary questions, I
hope you will not interfere with me as long as Mrs. Brenton consents to
"I shall not interfere at all," said the sheriff; "I only wanted to
caution you, for the lady may break down at any moment; If you can
marshal your questions so that the most important ones come first, I
think it will be wise. I presume you have them pretty well arranged in
your own mind?"
"Well, I can't say that I have; you see, I am entirely in the dark. I
got no help whatever from the lawyers, and from what I know of their
defence I am thoroughly convinced that they are on the wrong track."
"What! did Brown say anything about the defence? That is not like his
"He didn't intend to," answered Stratton; "but I found out all I wanted
to know, nevertheless. You see, I shall have to ask what appears to be a
lot of rambling, inconsequential questions because you can never tell in
a case like this when you may get the key to the whole mystery."
"Well, here we are," said the sheriff, as he knocked at a door, and then
pushed it open.
From the moment George Stratton saw Mrs. Brenton his interest in the
case ceased to be purely journalistic.
Mrs. Brenton was standing near the window, and she appeared to be very
calm and collected, but her fingers twitched nervously, clasping and
unclasping each other. Her modest dress of black was certainly a very
George thought he had never seen a woman so beautiful.
As she was standing up, she evidently intended the interview to be a
"Madam," said Stratton, "I am very sorry indeed to trouble you; but I
have taken a great interest in the solution of this mystery, and I have
your lawyers' permission to visit you. I assure you, anything you say
will be submitted to them, so that there will be no danger of your case
being prejudiced by any statements made."
"I am not afraid;" said Mrs. Brenton, "that the truth will injure or
prejudice my case."
"I am sure of that," answered the newspaper man; and then, knowing that
she would not sit down if he asked her to, he continued diplomatically,
"Madam, will you permit me to sit down? I wish to write out my notes as
carefully as possible. Accuracy is my strong point."
"Certainly," said Mrs. Brenton; and, seeing that it was not probable the
interview would be a short one, she seated herself by the window, while
the sheriff took a chair in the corner, and drew a newspaper from his
"Now, madam," said the special, "a great number of the questions I ask
you may seem trivial, but as I said to the sheriff a moment ago, some
word of yours that appears to you entirely unconnected with the case may
give me a clue which will be exceedingly valuable. You will, therefore,
I am sure, pardon me if some of the questions, I ask you appear
Mrs. Brenton bowed her head, but said nothing.
"Were your husband's business affairs in good condition at the time of
"As far as I know they were."
"Did you ever see anything in your husband's actions that would lead you
to think him a man who might have contemplated suicide?"
Mrs. Brenton looked up with wide-open eyes.
"Certainly not," she said.
"Had he ever spoken to you on the subject of suicide?"
"I do not remember that he ever did."
"Was he ever queer in his actions? In short, did you ever notice
anything about him that would lead you to doubt his sanity? I am sorry
if questions I ask you seem painful, but I have reasons for wishing to
be certain on this point."
"No," said Mrs. Brenton; "he was perfectly sane. No man could have been
more so. I am certain that he never thought of committing suicide."
"Why are you so certain on that point?"
"I do not know why. I only know I am positive of it."
"Do you know if he had any enemy who might wish his death?"
"I doubt if he had an enemy in the world. I do not know of any."
"Have you ever heard him speak of anybody in a spirit of enmity?"
"Never. He was not a man who bore enmity against people. Persons whom he
did not like he avoided."
"The poison, it is said, was put into his cup of coffee. Do you happen
to know," said Stratton, turning to the sheriff, "how they came to that
"No, I do not," answered the sheriff. "In fact, I don't see any reason
why they should think so."
"Was morphia found in the coffee cup afterwards?"
"No; at the time of the inquest all the things had been cleared away. I
think it was merely presumed that the morphine was put into his coffee."
"Who poured out the coffee he drank that night?"
"I did," answered his wife. "You were at one end of the table and he at
the other, I suppose?"
"How did the coffee cup reach him?"
"I gave it to the servant, and she placed it before him."
"It passed through no other hands, then?"
"Who was the servant?"
Mrs. Brenton pondered for a moment.
"I really know very little about her. She had been in our house for a
couple of weeks only."
"What was her name?"
"Jane Morton, I think."
"Where is she now, do you know?"
"I do not know."
"She appeared at the inquest, of course?" said Stratton, turning to the
"I think she did," was the answer. "I am not sure."
He marked her name down in the note-book.
"How many people were there at the dinner?"
"Including my husband and myself, there were twenty-six."
"Could you give me the name of each of them?"
"Yes, I think so."
She repeated the names, which he took down, with certain notes and
comments on each.
"Who sat next your husband at the head of the table?"
"Miss Walker was at his right hand, Mr. Roland at his left."
"Now, forgive me if I ask you if you have ever had any trouble with your
"Never had any quarrel?"
Mrs. Brenton hesitated for a moment.
"No, I don't think we ever had what could be called a quarrel."
"You had no disagreement shortly before the dinner?"
Again Mrs. Brenton hesitated.
"I can hardly call it a disagreement," she said. "We had a little
discussion about some of the guests who were to be invited."
"Did he object to any that were there?"
"There was a gentleman there whom he did not particularly like, I think,
but he made no objection to his coming; in fact, he seemed to feel that
I might imagine he had an objection from a little discussion we had
about inviting him; and afterwards, as if to make up for that, he placed
this guest at his left hand."