Part 4 out of 9
admirably on the piano; and the sick man happened--most
unfortunately, as the event proved--to be fond of music.
"The consequences of the perfectly innocent intercourse thus
begun were deplorable consequences for my niece. She became
passionately attached to Mr. Eustace Macallan, without awakening
any corresponding affection on his side.
"I did my best to interfere, delicately and usefully, while it
was still possible to interfere with advantage. Unhappily, my
niece refused to place any confidence in me. She persistently
denied that she was actuated by any warmer feeling toward Mr.
Macallan than a feeling of friendly interest. This made it
impossible for me to separate them without openly acknowledging
my reason for doing so, and thus producing a scandal which might
have affected my niece's reputation. My husband was alive at that
time; and the one thing I could do under the circumstances was
the thing I did. I requested him to speak privately to Mr.
Macallan, and to appeal to his honor to help us out of the
difficulty without prejudice to my niece.
"Mr. Macallan behaved admirably. He was still helpless. But he
made an excuse for leaving us which it was impossible to dispute.
In two days after my husband had spoken to him he was removed
from the house.
"The remedy was well intended; but it came too late, and it
utterly failed. The mischief was done. My niece pined away
visibly; neither medical help nor change of air and scene did
anything for her. In course of time--after Mr. Macallan had
recovered from the effects of his accident--I found that she was
carrying on a clandestine correspondence with him by means of her
maid. His letters, I am bound to say, were most considerately and
carefully written. Nevertheless, I felt it my duty to stop the
"My interference--what else could I do but interfere?--brought
matters to a crisis. One day my niece was missing at
breakfast-time. The next day we discovered that the poor
infatuated creature had gone to Mr. Macallan's chambers in
London, and had been found hidden in his bedroom by some bachelor
friends who came to visit him.
"For this disaster Mr. Macallan was in no respect to blame.
Hearing footsteps outside, he had only time to take measures for
saving her character by concealing her i n the nearest room--and
the nearest room happened to be his bedchamber. The matter was
talked about, of course, and motives were misinterpreted in the
vilest manner. My husband had another private conversation with
Mr. Macallan. He again behaved admirably. He publicly declared
that my niece had visited him as his betrothed wife. In a
fortnight from that time he silenced scandal in the one way that
was possible--he married her.
"I was alone in opposing the marriage. I thought it at the time
what it has proved to be since--a fatal mistake.
"It would have been sad enough if Mr. Macallan had only married
her without a particle of love on his side. But to make the
prospect more hopeless still, he was at that very time the victim
of a misplaced attachment to a lady who was engaged to another
man. I am well aware that he compassionately denied this, just as
he compassionately affected to be in love with my niece when he
married her. But his hopeless admiration of the lady whom I have
mentioned was a matter of fact notorious among his friends. It
may not be amiss to add that _her_ marriage preceded _his_
marriage. He had irretrievably lost the woman he really loved--he
was without a hope or an aspiration in life--when he took pity on
"In conclusion, I can only repeat that no evil which could have
happened (if she had remained a single woman) would have been
comparable, in my opinion, to the evil of such a marriage as
this. Never, I sincerely believe, were two more ill-assorted
persons united in the bonds of matrimony than the prisoner at the
bar and his deceased wife."
The evidence of this witness produced a strong sensation among
the audience, and had a marked effect on the minds of the jury.
Cross-examination forced Lady Brydehaven to modify some of her
opinions, and to acknowledge that the hopeless attachment of the
prisoner to another woman was a matter of rumor only. But the
facts in her narrative remained unshaken, and, for that one
reason, they invested the crime charged against the prisoner with
an appearance of possibility, which it had entirely failed to
assume during the earlier part of the Trial.
Two other ladies (intimate friends of Mrs. Eustace Macallan) were
called next. They differed from Lady Brydehaven in their opinions
on the propriety of the marriage but on all the material points
they supported her testimony, and confirmed the serious
impression which the first witness had produced on every person
The next evidence which the prosecution proposed to put in was
the silent evidence of the letters and the Diary found at
In answer to a question from the Bench, the Lord Advocate stated
that the letters were written by friends of the prisoner and his
deceased wife, and that passages in them bore directly on the
terms on which the two associated in their married life. The
Diary was still more valuable as evidence. It contained the
prisoner's daily record of domestic events, and of the thoughts
and feelings which they aroused in him at the time.
A most painful scene followed this explanation.
Writing, as I do, long after the events took place, I still
cannot prevail upon myself to describe in detail what my unhappy
husband said and did at this distressing period of the Trial.
Deeply affected while Lady Brydehaven was giving her evidence, he
had with difficulty restrained himself from interrupting her. He
now lost all control over his feelings. In piercing tones, which
rang through the Court, he protested against the contemplated
violation of his own most sacred secrets and his wife's most
sacred secrets. "Hang me, innocent as I am!" he cried, "but spare
me _that!_" The effect of this terrible outbreak on the audience
is reported to have been indescribable. Some of the women present
were in hysterics. The Judges interfered from the Bench, but with
no good result. Quiet was at length restored by the Dean of
Faculty, who succeeded in soothing the prisoner, and who then
addressed the Judges, pleading for indulgence to his unhappy
client in most touching and eloquent language. The speech, a
masterpiece of impromptu oratory, concluded with a temperate yet
strongly urged protest against the reading of the papers
discovered at Gleninch.
The three Judges retired to consider the legal question submitted
to them. The sitting was suspended for more than half an hour.
As usual in such cases, the excitement in the Court communicated
itself to the crowd outside in the street. The general opinion
here--led, as it was supposed, by one of the clerks or other
inferior persons connected with the legal proceedings--was
decidedly adverse to the prisoner's chance of escaping a sentence
of death. "If the letters and the Diary are read," said the
brutal spokesman of the mob, "the letters and the Diary will hang
On the return of the Judges into Court, it was announced that
they had decided, by a majority of two to one, on permitting the
documents in dispute to be produced in evidence. Each of the
Judges, in turn, gave his reasons for the decision at which he
had arrived. This done, the Trial proceeded. The reading of the
extracts from the letters and the extracts from the Diary began.
The first letters produced were the letters found in the Indian
cabinet in Mrs. Eustace Macallan's room. They were addressed to
the deceased lady by intimate (female) friends of hers, with whom
she was accustomed to correspond. Three separate extracts from
letters written by three different correspondents were selected
to be read in Court.
FIRST CORRESPONDENT: "I despair, my dearest Sara, of being able
to tell you how your last letter has distressed me. Pray forgive
me if I own to thinking that your very sensitive nature
exaggerates or misinterprets, quite unconsciously, of course, the
neglect that you experience at the hands of your husband. I
cannot say anything about _his_ peculiarities of character,
because I am not well enough acquainted with him to know what
they are. But, my dear, I am much older than you, and I have had
a much longer experience than yours of what somebody calls 'the
lights and shadows of married life.' Speaking from that
experience, I must tell you what I have observed. Young married
women, like you, who are devotedly attached to their husbands,
are apt to make one very serious mistake. As a rule, they all
expect too much from their husbands. Men, my poor Sara, are not
like _us._ Their love, even when it is quite sincere, is not like
our love. It does not last as it does with us. It is not the one
hope and one thought of their lives, as it is with us. We have no
alternative, even when we most truly respect and love them, but
to make allowance for this difference between the man's nature
and the woman's. I do not for one moment excuse your husband's
coldness. He is wrong, for example, in never looking at you when
he speaks to you, and in never noticing the efforts that you make
to please him. He is worse than wrong--he is really cruel, if you
like--in never returning your kiss when you kiss him. But, my
dear, are you quite sure that he is always _designedly_ cold and
cruel? May not his conduct be sometimes the result of troubles
and anxieties which weigh on his mind, and which are troubles and
anxieties that you cannot share? If you try to look at his
behavior in this light, you will understand many things which
puzzle and pain you now. Be patient with him, my child. Make no
complaints, and never approach him with your caresses at times
when his mind is preoccupied or his temper ruffled. This may be
hard advice to follow, loving him as ardently as you do. But,
rely on it, the secret of happiness for us women is to be found
(alas! only too often) in such exercise of restraint and
resignation as your old friend now recommends. Think, my dear,
over what I have written, and let me hear from you again."
SECOND CORRESPONDENT: "How can you be so foolish, Sara, as to
waste your love on such a cold-blooded brute as your husband
seems to be? To be sure, I am not married yet, or perhaps I
should not be so surprised at you. But I shall be married one of
these days, and if my husband ever treat me as Mr. Macallan tre
ats you, I shall insist on a separation. I declare, I think I
would rather be actually beaten, like the women among the lower
orders, than be treated with the polite neglect and contempt
which you describe. I burn with indignation when I think of it.
It must be quite insufferable. Don't bear it any longer, my poor
dear. Leave him, and come and stay with me. My brother is a
lawyer, as you know. I read to him portions of your letter, and
he is of opinion that you might get what he calls a judicial
separation. Come and consult him."
THIRD CORRESPONDENT: "YOU know, my dear Mrs. Macallan, what _my_
experience of men has been. Your letter does not surprise me in
the least. Your husband's conduct to you points to one
conclusion. He is in love with some other woman. There is
Somebody in the dark, who gets from him everything that he denies
to you. I have been through it all--and I know! Don't give way.
Make it the business of your life to find out who the creature
is. Perhaps there may be more than one of them. It doesn't
matter. One or many, if you can only discover them, you may make
his existence as miserable to him as he makes your existence to
you. If you want my experience to help you, say the word, and it
is freely at your service. I can come and stay with you at
Gleninch any time after the fourth of next month."
With those abominable lines the readings from the letters of the
women came to an end. The first and longest of the Extracts
produced the most vivid impression in Court. Evidently the writer
was in this case a worthy and sensible person. It was generally
felt, however, that all three of the letters, no matter how
widely they might differ in tone, justified the same conclusion.
The wife's position at Gleninch (if the wife's account of it were
to be trusted) was the position of a neglected and an unhappy
The correspondence of the prisoner, which had been found, with
his Diary, in the locked bed-table drawer, was produced next. The
letters in this case were with one exception all written by men.
Though the tone of them was moderation itself as compared with
the second and third of the women's letters, the conclusion still
pointed the same way. The life of the husband at Gleninch
appeared to be just as intolerable as the life of the wife.
For example, one of the prisoner's male friends wrote inviting
him to make a yacht voyage around the world. Another suggested an
absence of six months on the Continent. A third recommended
field-sports and fishing. The one object aimed at by all the
writers was plainly to counsel a separation, more or less
plausible and more or less complete, between the married pair.
The last letter read was addressed to the prisoner in a woman's
handwriting, and was signed by a woman's Christian name only.
"Ah, my poor Eustace, what a cruel destiny is ours!" the letter
began. "When I think of your life, sacrificed to that wretched
woman, my heart bleeds for you. If _we_ had been man and wife--if
it had been _my_ unutterable happiness to love and cherish the
best, the dearest of men--what a paradise of our own we might
have lived in! what delicious hours we might have known! But
regret is vain; we are separated in this life--separated by ties
which we both mourn, and yet which we must both respect. My
Eustace, there is a world beyond this. There our souls will fly
to meet each other, and mingle in one long heavenly embrace--in a
rapture forbidden to us on earth. The misery described in your
letter--oh, why, why did you marry her?--has wrung this
confession of feeling from me. Let it comfort you, but let no
other eyes see it. Burn my rashly written lines, and look (as I
look) to the better life which you may yet share with your own
The reading of this outrageous letter provoked a question from
the Bench. One of the Judges asked if the writer had attached any
date or address to her letter.
In answer to this the Lord Advocate stated that neither the one
nor the other appeared. The envelope showed that the letter had
been posted in London. "We propose," the learned counsel
continued, "to read certain passages from the prisoner's Diary,
in which the name signed at the end of the letter occurs more
than once; and we may possibly find other means of identifying
the writer, to the satisfaction of your lordships, before the
Trial is over."
The promised passages from my husband's private Diary were now
read. The first extract related to a period of nearly a year
before the date of Mrs. Eustace Macallan's death. It was
expressed in these terms:
"News, by this morning's post, which has quite overwhelmed me.
Helena's husband died suddenly two days since of heart-disease.
She is free--my beloved Helena is free! And I?
"I am fettered to a woman with whom I have not a single feeling
in common. Helena is lost to me, by my own act. Ah! I can
understand now, as I never understood before, how irresistible
temptation can be, and how easily sometimes crime may follow it.
I had better shut up these leaves for the night. It maddens me to
no purpose to think of my position or to write of it."
The next passage, dated a few days later, dwelt on the same
"Of all the follies that a man can commit, the greatest is acting
on impulse. I acted on impulse when I married the unfortunate
creature who is now my wife.
"Helena was then lost to me, as I too hastily supposed. She had
married the man to whom she rashly engaged herself before she met
with me. He was younger than I, and, to all appearance, heartier
and stronger than I. So far as I could see, my fate was sealed
for life. Helena had written her farewell letter, taking leave of
me in this world for good. My prospects were closed; my hopes had
ended. I had not an aspiration left; I had no necessity to
stimulate me to take refuge in work. A chivalrous action, an
exertion of noble self-denial, seemed to be all that was left to
me, all that I was fit for.
"The circumstances of the moment adapted themselves, with a fatal
facility, to this idea. The ill-fated woman who had become
attached to me (Heaven knows--without so much as the shadow of
encouragement on my part!) had, just at that time, rashly placed
her reputation at the mercy of the world. It rested with me to
silence the scandalous tongues that reviled her. With Helena lost
to me, happiness was not to be expected. All women were equally
indifferent to me. A generous action would be the salvation of
this woman. Why not perform it? I married her on that
impulse--married her just as I might have jumped into the water
and saved her if she had been drowning; just as I might have
knocked a man down if I had seen him ill-treating her in the
"And now the woman for whom I have made this sacrifice stands
between me and my Helena--my Helena, free to pour out all the
treasures of her love on the man who adores the earth that she
touches with her foot!
"Fool! madman! Why don't I dash out my brains against the wall
that I see opposite to me while I write these lines?
"My gun is there in the corner. I have only to tie a string to
the trigger and to put the muzzle to my mouth--No! My mother is
alive; my mother's love is sacred. I have no right to take the
life which she gave me. I must suffer and submit. Oh, Helena!
The third extract--one among many similar passages--had been
written about two months before the death of the prisoner's wife.
"More reproaches addressed to me! There never was such a woman
for complaining; she lives in a perfect atmosphere of ill-temper
"My new offenses are two in number: I never ask her to play to me
now; and when she puts on a new dress expressly to please me, I
never notice it. Notice it! Good Heavens! The effort of my life
is _not_ to notice her in anything she does or says. How could I
keep my temper, unless I kept as much as possible out of the way
of private interviews with her? And I do keep my temper. I am
never hard on her; I never use harsh language to her. She has a
double claim on my forbearance---she is a woman, and the law has
made her my wife. I remember this; but I am human. The less I see
of her--exc ept when visitors are present--the more certain I can
feel of preserving my self-control.
"I wonder what it is that makes her so utterly distasteful to me?
She is a plain woman; but I have seen uglier women than she whose
caresses I could have endured without the sense of shrinking that
comes over me when I am obliged to submit to _her_ caresses. I
keep the feeling hidden from her. She loves me, poor thing--and I
pity her. I wish I could do more; I wish I could return in the
smallest degree the feeling with which she regards me. But no--I
can only pity her. If she would be content to live on friendly
terms with me, and never to exact demonstrations of tenderness,
we might get on pretty well. But she wants love. Unfortunate
creature, she wants love!
"Oh, my Helena! I have no love to give her. My heart is yours.
"I dreamed last night that this unhappy wife of mine was dead.
The dream was so vivid that I actually got out of my bed and
opened the door of her room and listened.
"Her calm, regular breathing was distinctly audible in the
stillness of the night. She was in a deep sleep: I closed the
door again and lighted my candle and read. Helena was in all my
thoughts; it was hard work to fix my attention on the book. But
anything was better than going to bed again, and dreaming perhaps
for the second time that I too was free.
"What a life mine is! what a life my wife's is! If the house were
to take fire, I wonder whether I should make an effort to save
myself or to save her?"
The last two passages read referred to later dates still.
"A gleam of brightness has shone over this dismal existence of
mine at last.
"Helena is no longer condemned to the seclusion of widowhood.
Time enough has passed to permit of her mixing again in society.
She is paying visits to friends in our part of Scotland; and, as
she and I are cousins, it is universally understood that she
cannot leave the North without also spending a few days at my
house. She writes me word that the visit, however embarrassing it
may be to us privately, is nevertheless a visit that must be made
for the sake of appearances. Blessings on appearances! I shall
see this angel in my purgatory--and all because Society in
Mid-Lothian would think it strange that my cousin should be
visiting in my part of Scotland and not visit Me!
"But we are to be very careful. Helena says, in so many words, 'I
come to see you, Eustace, as a sister. You must receive me as a
brother, or not receive me at all. I shall write to your wife to
propose the day for my visit. I shall not forget--do you not
forget--that it is by your wife's permission that I enter your
"Only let me see her! I will submit to anything to obtain the
unutterable happiness of seeing her!"
The last extract followed, and consisted of these lines only:
"A new misfortune! My wife has fallen ill. She has taken to her
bed with a bad rheumatic cold, just at the time appointed for
Helena's visit to Gleninch. But on this occasion (I gladly own
it!) she has behaved charmingly. She has written to Helena to say
that her illness is not serious enough to render a change
necessary in the arrangements, and to make it her particular
request that my cousin's visit shall take place upon the day
originally decided on.
"This is a great sacrifice made to me on my wife's part. Jealous
of every woman under forty who comes near me, she is, of course,
jealous of Helena--and she controls herself, and trusts me!
"I am bound to show my gratitude for this and I will show it.
From this day forth I vow to live more affectionately with my
wife. I tenderly embraced her this very morning, and I hope, poor
soul, she did not discover the effort that it cost me."
There the readings from the Diary came to an end.
The most unpleasant pages in the whole Report of the Trial
were--to me--the pages which contained the extracts from my
husband's Diary. There were expressions here and there which not
only pained me, but which almost shook Eustace's position in my
estimation. I think I would have given everything I possessed to
have had the power of annihilating certain lines in the Diary. As
for his passionate expressions of love for Mrs. Beauly, every one
of them went through me like a sting. He had whispered words
quite as warm into my ears in the days of his courtship. I had no
reason to doubt that he truly and dearly loved me. But the
question was, Had he just as truly and dearly loved Mrs. Beauly
before me? Had she or I--won the first love of his heart? He had
declared to me over and over again that he had only fancied
himself to be in love before the day when we met. I had believed
him then. I determined to believe him still. I did believe him.
But I hated Mrs. Beauly!
As for the painful impression produced in Court by the readings
from the letters and the Diary, it seemed to be impossible to
increase it. Nevertheless it _was_ perceptibly increased. In
other words, it was rendered more unfavorable still toward the
prisoner by the evidence of the next and last witness called on
the part of the prosecution.
William Enzie, under-gardener at Gleninch, was sworn, and deposed
On the twentieth of October, at eleven o'clock in the forenoon, I
was sent to work in the shrubbery, on the side next to the garden
called the Dutch Garden. There was a summer-house in the Dutch
Garden, having its back set toward the shrubbery. The day was
wonderfully fine and--warm for the time of year.
"Passing to my work, I passed the back of the summer-house. I
heard voices inside--a man's voice and a lady's voice. The lady's
voice was strange to me. The man's voice I recognized as the
voice of my master. The ground in the shrubbery was soft, and my
curiosity was excited. I stepped up to the back of the
summer-house without being heard, and I listened to what was
going on inside.
"The first words I could distinguish were spoken in my master's
voice. He said, 'If I could only have foreseen that you might one
day be free, what a happy man I might have been!' The lady's
voice answered, 'Hush! you must not talk so.' My master said upon
that, 'I must talk of what is in my mind; it is always in my mind
that I have lost you.' He stopped a bit there, and then he said
on a sudden, 'Do me one favor, my angel! Promise me not to marry
again.' The lady's voice spoke out thereupon sharply enough,
'What do you mean?' My master said, 'I wish no harm to the
unhappy creature who is a burden on my life; but suppose--'
'Suppose nothing,' the lady said; 'come back to the house.'
"She led the way into the garden, and turned round, beckoning my
master to join her. In that position I saw her face plainly, and
I knew it for the face of the young widow lady who was visiting
at the house. She was pointed out to me by the head-gardener when
she first arrived, for the purpose of warning me that I was not
to interfere if I found her picking the flowers. The gardens at
Gleninch were shown to tourists on certain days, and we made a
difference, of course, in the matter of the flowers between
strangers and guests staying in the house. I am quite certain of
the identity of the lady who was talking with my master. Mrs.
Beauly was a comely person--and there was no mistaking her for
any other than herself. She and my master withdrew together on
the way to the house. I heard nothing more of what passed between
This witness was severely cross-examined as to the correctness of
his recollection of the talk in the summer-house, and as to his
capacity for identifying both the speakers. On certain minor
points he was shaken. But he firmly asserted his accurate
remembrance of the last words exchanged between his master and
Mrs. Beauly; and he personally described the lady in terms which
proved that he had corruptly identified her.
With this the answer to the third question raised by the
Trial--the question of the prisoner's motive for poisoning his
wife--came to an end.
The story for the prosecution was now a story told. The
staunchest friends of the prisoner in Court were compelled to
acknowledge that the evidence thus far pointed clearly and
conclusively against him. He seemed to feel this himself. When he
withdrew at the close of the third day of the Trial he was so
depressed and exhausted that he was obliged to lean on the arm of
the governor of the jail.
THE EVIDENCE FOR THE DEFENSE.
THE feeling of interest excited by the Trial was prodigiously
increased on the fourth day. The witnesses for the defense were
now to be heard, and first and foremost among them appeared the
prisoner's mother. She looked at her son as she lifted her veil
to take the oath. He burst into tears. At that moment the
sympathy felt for the mother was generally extended to the
Examined by the Dean of Faculty, Mrs. Macallan the elder gave her
answers with remarkable dignity and self-control.
Questioned as to certain private conversations which had passed
between her late daughter-in-law and herself, she declared that
Mrs. Eustace Macallan was morbidly sensitive on the subject of
her personal appearance. She was devotedly attached to her
husband; the great anxiety of her life was to make herself as
attractive to him as possible. The imperfections in her personal
appearance--and especially in her complexion--were subjects to
her of the bitterest regret. The witness had heard her say, over
and over again (referring to her complexion), that there was no
risk she would not run, and no pain she would not suffer, to
improve it. "Men" (she had said) "are all caught by outward
appearances: my husband might love me better if I had a better
Being asked next if the passages from her son's Diary were to be
depended on as evidence--that is to say, if they fairly
represented the peculiarities in his character, and his true
sentiments toward his wife--Mrs. Macallan denied it in the
plainest and strongest terms.
"The extracts from my son's Diary are a libel on his character,"
she said. "And not the less a libel because they happen to be
written by himself. Speaking from a mother's experience of him, I
know that he must have written the passages produced in moments
of uncontrollable depression and despair. No just person judges
hastily of a man by the rash words which may escape him in his
moody and miserable moments. Is my son to be so judged because he
happens to have written _his_ rash words, instead of speaking
them? His pen has been his most deadly enemy, in this case--it
has presented him at his very worst. He was not happy in his
marriage--I admit that. But I say at the same time that he was
invariably considerate toward his wife. I was implicitly trusted
by both of them; I saw them in their most private moments. I
declare--in the face of what she appears to have written to her
friends and correspondents--that my son never gave his wife any
just cause to assert that he treated her with cruelty or
The words, firmly and clearly spoken, produced a strong
impression. The Lord Advocate--evidently perceiving that any
attempt to weaken that impression would not be likely to
succeed--confined himself, in cross-examination, to two
"In speaking to you of the defects in her complexion," he said,
"did your daughter-in-law refer in any way to the use of arsenic
as a remedy?"
The answer to this was, "No."
The Lord Advocate proceeded:
"Did you yourself ever recommend arsenic, or mention it casually,
in the course of the private conversations which you have
The answer to this was, "Never."
The Lord Advocate resumed his seat. Mrs. Macallan the elder
An interest of a new kind was excited by the appearance of the
next witness. This was no less a person than Mrs. Beauly herself.
The Report describes her as a remarkably attractive person;
modest and lady-like in her manner, and, to all appearance,
feeling sensitively the public position in which she was placed.
The first portion of her evidence was almost a recapitulation of
the evidence given by the prisoner's mother--with this
difference, that Mrs. Beauly had been actually questioned by the
deceased lady on the subject of cosmetic applications to the
complexion. Mrs. Eustace Macallan had complimented her on the
beauty of her complexion, and had asked what artificial means she
used to keep it in such good order. Using no artificial means,
and knowing nothing whatever of cosmetics, Mrs. Beauly had
resented the question, and a temporary coolness between the two
ladies had been the result.
Interrogated as to her relations with the prisoner, Mrs. Beauly
indignantly denied that she or Mr. Macallan had ever given the
deceased lady the slightest cause for jealousy. It was impossible
for Mrs. Beauly to leave Scotland, after visiting at the houses
of her cousin's neighbors, without also visiting at her cousin's
house. To take any other course would have been an act of
downright rudeness, and would have excited remark. She did not
deny that Mr. Macallan had admired her in the days when they were
both single people. But there was no further expression of that
feeling when she had married another man, and when he had married
another woman. From that time their intercourse was the innocent
intercourse of a brother and sister. Mr. Macallan was a
gentleman: he knew what was due to his wife and to Mrs.
Beauly--she would not have entered the house if experience had
not satisfied her of that. As for the evidence of the
under-gardener, it was little better than pure invention. The
greater part of the conversation which he had described himself
as overhearing had never taken place. The little that was really
said (as the man reported it) was said jestingly; and she had
checked it immediately--as the witness had himself confessed. For
the rest, Mr. Macallan's behavior toward his wife was invariably
kind and considerate. He was constantly devising means to
alleviate her sufferings from the rheumatic affection which
confined her to her bed; he had spoken of her, not once but many
times, in terms of the sincerest sympathy. When she ordered her
husband and witness to leave the room, on the day of her death,
Mr. Macallan said to witness afterward, "We must bear with her
jealousy, poor soul: we know that we don't deserve it." In that
patient manner he submitted to her infirmities of temper from
first to last.
The main interest in the cross-examination of Mrs. Beauly
centered in a question which was put at the end. After reminding
her that she had given her name, on being sworn, as "Helena
Beauly," the Lord Advocate said:
"A letter addressed to the prisoner, and signed 'Helena,' has
been read in Court. Look at it, if you please. Are you the writer
of that letter?"
Before the witness could reply the Dean of Faculty protested
against the question. The Judges allowed the protest, and refused
to permit the question to be put. Mrs. Beauly thereupon withdrew.
She had betrayed a very perceptible agitation on hearing the
letter referred to, and on having it placed in her hands. This
exhibition of feeling was variously interpreted among the
audience. Upon the whole, however, Mrs. Beauly's evidence was
considered to have aided the impression which the mother's
evidence had produced in the prisoner's favor.
The next witnesses--both ladies, and both school friends of Mrs.
Eustace Macallan--created a new feeling of interest in Court.
They supplied the missing link in the evidence for the defense.
The first of the ladies declared that she had mentioned arsenic
as a means of improving the complexion in conversation with Mrs.
Eustace Macallan. She had never used it herself, but she had read
of the practice of eating arsenic among the Styrian peasantry for
the purpose of clearing the color, and of producing a general
appearance of plumpness and good health. She positively swore
that she had related this result of her reading to the deceased
lady exactly as she now related it in Court.
The second witness, present at the conversation already
mentioned, corroborated the first witness in every particular;
and added that she had procured the book relating to the
arsenic-eating practices of the Styrian peasantry, and their
results, at Mrs. Eustace Macallan's own request. This book she
had herself dispatched by post to Mrs. Eustace Macallan at
There was but one assailable p oint in this otherwise conclusive
evidence. The cross-examination discovered it.
Both the ladies were asked, in turn, if Mrs. Eustace Macallan had
expressed to them, directly or indirectly, any intention of
obtaining arsenic, with a view to the improvement of her
complexion. In each case the answer to that all-important
question was, No. Mrs. Eustace Macallan had heard of the remedy,
and had received the book. But of her own intentions in the
future she had not said one word. She had begged both the ladies
to consider the conversation as strictly private--and there it
It required no lawyer's eye to discern the fatal defect which was
now revealed in the evidence for the defense. Every intelligent
person present could see that the prisoner's chance of an
honorable acquittal depended on tracing the poison to the
possession of his wife--or at least on proving her expressed
intention to obtain it. In either of these cases the prisoner's
Declaration of his innocence would claim the support of
testimony, which, however indirect it might be, no honest and
intelligent men would be likely to resist. Was that testimony
forthcoming? Was the counsel for the defense not at the end of
his resources yet?
The crowded audience waited in breathless expectation for the
appearance of the next witness. A whisper went round among
certain well-instructed persons that the Court was now to see and
hear the prisoner's old friend--already often referred to in the
course of the Trial as "Mr. Dexter."
After a brief interval of delay there was a sudden commotion
among the audience, accompanied by suppressed exclamations of
curiosity and surprise. At the same moment the crier summoned the
new witness by the extraordinary name of
THE END OF THE TRIAL.
THE calling of the new witness provoked a burst of laughter
among the audience due partly, no doubt, to the strange name by
which he had been summoned; partly, also, to the instinctive
desire of all crowded assemblies, when their interest is
painfully excited, to seize on any relief in the shape of the
first subject of merriment which may present itself. A severe
rebuke from the Bench restored order among the audience. The Lord
Justice Clerk declared that he would "clear the Court" if the
interruption to the proceedings were renewed.
During the silence which followed this announcement the new
Gliding, self-propelled in his chair on wheels, through the
opening made for him among the crowd, a strange and startling
creature--literally the half of a man--revealed himself to the
general view. A coverlet which had been thrown over his chair had
fallen off during his progress through the throng. The loss of it
exposed to the public curiosity the head, the arms, and the trunk
of a living human being: absolutely deprived of the lower limbs.
To make this deformity all the more striking and all the more
terrible, the victim of it was--as to his face and his body--an
unusually handsome and an unusually well-made man. His long silky
hair, of a bright and beautiful chestnut color, fell over
shoulders that were the perfection of strength and grace. His
face was bright with vivacity and intelligence. His large clear
blue eyes and his long delicate white hands were like the eyes
and hands of a beautiful woman. He would have looked effeminate
but for the manly proportions of his throat and chest, aided in
their effect by his flowing beard and long mustache, of a lighter
chestnut shade than the color of his hair. Never had a
magnificent head and body been more hopelessly ill-bestowed than
in this instance! Never had Nature committed a more careless or a
more cruel mistake than in the making of this man!
He was sworn, seated, of course, in his chair. Having given his
name, he bowed to the Judges and requested their permission to
preface his evidence with a word of explanation.
"People generally laugh when they first hear my strange Christian
name," he said, in a low, clear, resonant voice which penetrated
to the remotest corners of the Court. "I may inform the good
people here that many names, still common among us, have their
significations, and that mine is one of them. 'Alexander,' for
instance, means, in the Greek, 'a helper of men.' 'David' means,
in Hebrew, 'well-beloved.' 'Francis' means, in German, 'free.' My
name, 'Miserrimus,' means, in Latin, 'most unhappy.' It was given
to me by my father, in allusion to the deformity which you all
see--the deformity with which it was my misfortune to be born.
You won't laugh at 'Miserrimus' again, will you?" He turned to
the Dean of Faculty, waiting to examine him for the defense. "Mr.
Dean. I am at your service. I apologize for delaying, even for a
moment, the proceedings of the Court."
He delivered his little address with perfect grace and
good-humor. Examined by the Dean, he gave his evidence clearly,
without the slightest appearance of hesitation or reserve.
"I was staying at Gleninch as a guest in the house at the time of
Mrs. Eustace Macallan's death," he began. "Doctor Jerome and Mr.
Gale desired to see me at a private interview--the prisoner being
then in a state of prostration which made it impossible for him
to attend to his duties as master of the house. At this interview
the two doctors astonished and horrified me by declaring that
Mrs. Eustace Macallan had died poisoned. They left it to me to
communicate the dreadful news to her husband, and they warned me
that a post-mortem examination must be held on the body.
"If the Fiscal had seen my old friend when I communicated the
doctors' message, I doubt if he would have ventured to charge the
prisoner with the murder of his wife. To my mind the charge was
nothing less than an outrage. I resisted the seizure of the
prisoner's Diary and letters, animated by that feeling. Now that
the Diary has been produced, I agree with the prisoner's mother
in denying that it is fair evidence to bring against him. A Diary
(when it extends beyond a bare record of facts and dates) is
nothing but an expression of the poorest and weakest side in the
character of the person who keeps it. It is, in nine cases out of
ten, the more or less contemptible outpouring of vanity and
conceit which the writer dare not exhibit to any mortal but
himself. I am the prisoner's oldest friend. I solemnly declare
that I never knew he could write downright nonsense until I heard
his Diary read in this Court!
"_He_ kill his wife! _He_ treat his wife with neglect and
cruelty! I venture to say, from twenty years' experience of him,
that there is no man in this assembly who is constitutionally
more incapable of crime and more incapable of cruelty than the
man who stands at the Bar. While I am about it, I go further
still. I even doubt whether a man capable of crime and capable of
cruelty could have found it in his heart to do evil to the woman
whose untimely death is the subject of this inquiry.
"I have heard what the ignorant and prejudiced nurse, Christina
Ormsay, has said of the deceased lady. From my own personal
observation, I contradict every word of it. Mrs. Eustace
Macallan--granting her personal defects--was nevertheless one of
the most charming women I ever met with. She was highly bred, in
the best sense of the word. I never saw in any other person so
sweet a smile as hers, or such grace and beauty of movement as
hers. If you liked music, she sang beautifully; and few professed
musicians had such a touch on the piano as hers. If you preferred
talking, I never yet met with the man (or even the woman, which
is saying a great deal more) whom her conversation could not
charm. To say that such a wife as this could be first cruelly
neglected, and then barbarously murdered, by the man--no! by the
martyr--who stands there, is to tell me that the sun never shines
at noonday, or that the heaven is not above the earth.
"Oh yes! I know that the letters of her friends show that she
wrote to them in bitter complaint of her husband's conduct to
her. But remember what one of those friends (the wisest and the
best of them) says in reply. 'I own to thinking,' she writes,
'that your sensitive nature exaggerates
or misinterprets the neglect that you experience at the hands of
your husband.' There, in that one sentence, is the whole truth!
Mrs. Eustace Macallan's nature was the imaginative,
self-tormenting nature of a poet. No mortal love could ever have
been refined enough for _her._ Trifles which women of a coarser
moral fiber would have passed over without notice, were causes of
downright agony to that exquisitely sensitive temperament. There
are persons born to be unhappy. That poor lady was one of them.
When I have said this, I have said all.
"No! There is one word more still to be added.
"It may be as well to remind the prosecution that Mrs. Eustace
Macallan's death was in the pecuniary sense a serious loss to her
husband. He had insisted on having the whole of her fortune
settled on herself, and on her relatives after her, when he
married. Her income from that fortune helped to keep in splendor
the house and grounds at Gleninch. The prisoner's own resources
(aided even by his mother's jointure) were quite inadequate fitly
to defray the expenses of living at his splendid country-seat.
Knowing all the circumstances, I can positively assert that the
wife's death has deprived the husband of two-thirds of his
income. And the prosecution, viewing him as the basest and
cruelest of men, declares that he deliberately killed her--with
all his pecuniary interests pointing to the preservation of her
"It is useless to ask me whether I noticed anything in the
conduct of the prisoner and Mrs. Beauly which might justify a
wife's jealousy. I never observed Mrs. Beauly with any attention,
and I never encouraged the prisoner in talking to me about her.
He was a general admirer of pretty women--so far as I know, in a
perfectly innocent way. That he could prefer Mrs. Beauly to his
wife is inconceivable to me, unless he were out of his senses. I
never had any reason to believe that he was out of his senses.
"As to the question of the arsenic--I mean the question of
tracing that poison to the possession of Mrs. Eustace Macallan--I
am able to give evidence which may, perhaps, be worthy of the
attention of the Court.
"I was present in the Fiscal's office during the examination of
the papers, and of the other objects discovered at Gleninch. The
dressing-case belonging to the deceased lady was shown to me
after its contents had been officially investigated by the Fiscal
himself. I happen to have a very sensitive sense of touch. In
handling the lid of the dressing-case, on the inner side I felt
something at a certain place which induced me to examine the
whole structure of the lid very carefully. The result was the
discovery of a private repository concealed in the space between
the outer wood and the lining. In that repository I found the
bottle which I now produce."
The further examination of the witness was suspended while the
hidden bottle was compared with the bottles properly belonging to
These last were of the finest cut glass, and of a very elegant
form--entirely unlike the bottle found in the private repository,
which was of the commonest manufacture, and of the shape
ordinarily in use among chemists. Not a drop of liquid, not the
smallest atom of any solid substance, remained in it. No smell
exhaled from it--and, more unfortunately still for the interests
of the defense, no label was found attached to the bottle when it
had been discovered.
The chemist who had sold the second supply of arsenic to the
prisoner was recalled and examined. He declared that the bottle
was exactly like the bottle in which he had placed the arsenic.
It was, however, equally like hundreds of other bottles in his
shop. In the absence of the label (on which he had himself
written the word "Poison"), it was impossible for him to identify
the bottle. The dressing-case and the deceased lady's bedroom had
been vainly searched for the chemist's missing label--on the
chance that it might have become accidentally detached from the
mysterious empty bottle. In both instances the search had been
without result. Morally, it was a fair conclusion that this might
be really the bottle which had contained the poison. Legally,
there was not the slightest proof of it.
Thus ended the last effort of the defense to trace the arsenic
purchased by the prisoner to the possession of his wife. The book
relating the practices of the Styrian peasantry (found in the
deceased lady's room) had been produced But could the book prove
that she had asked her husband to buy arsenic for her? The
crumpled paper, with the grains of powder left in it, had been
identified by the chemist, and had been declared to contain
grains of arsenic. But where was the proof that Mrs. Eustace
Macallan's hand had placed the packet in the cabinet, and had
emptied it of its contents? No direct evidence anywhere! Nothing
The renewed examination of Miserrimus Dexter touched on matters
of no general interest. The cross-examination resolved itself, in
substance, into a mental trial of strength between the witness
and the Lord Advocate; the struggle terminating (according to the
general opinion) in favor of the witness. One question and one
answer only I will repeat here. They appeared to me to be of
serious importance to the object that I had in view in reading
"I believe, Mr. Dexter," the Lord Advocate remarked, in his most
ironical manner, "that you have a theory of your own, which makes
the death of Mrs. Eustace Macallan no mystery to _you?_"
"I may have my own ideas on that subject, as on other subjects,"
the witness replied. "But let me ask their lordships, the Judges:
Am I here to declare theories or to state facts?"
I made a note of that answer. Mr. Dexter's "ideas" were the ideas
of a true friend to my husband, and of a man of far more than
average ability. They might be of inestimable value to me in the
coming time--if I could prevail on him to communicate them.
I may mention, while I am writing on the subject, that I added to
this first note a second, containing an observation of my own. In
alluding to Mrs. Beauly, while he was giving his evidence, Mr.
Dexter had spoken of her so slightingly--so rudely, I might
almost say--as to suggest he had some strong private reasons for
disliking (perhaps for distrusting) this lady. Here, again, it
might be of vital importance to me to see Mr. Dexter, and to
clear up, if I could, what the dignity of the Court had passed
over without notice.
The last witness had been now examined. The chair on wheels
glided away with the half-man in it, and was lost in a distant
corner of the Court. The Lord Advocate rose to address the Jury
for the prosecution.
I do not scruple to say that I never read anything so infamous as
this great lawyer's speech. He was not ashamed to declare, at
starting, that he firmly believed the prisoner to be guilty. What
right had he to say anything of the sort? Was it for _him_ to
decide? Was he the Judge and Jury both, I should like to know?
Having begun by condemning the prisoner on his own authority, the
Lord Advocate proceeded to pervert the most innocent actions of
that unhappy man so as to give them as vile an aspect as
possible. Thus: When Eustace kissed his poor wife's forehead on
her death-bed, he did it to create a favorable impression in the
minds of the doctor and the nurse! Again, when his grief under
his bereavement completely overwhelmed him, he was triumphing in
secret, and acting a part! If you looked into his heart, you
would see there a diabolical hatred for his wife and an
infatuated passion for Mrs. Beauly! In everything he had said he
had lied; in everything he had done he had acted like a crafty
and heartless wretch! So the chief counsel for the prosecution
spoke of the prisoner, standing helpless before him at the Bar.
In my husband's place, if I could have done nothing more, I would
have thrown something at his head. As it was, I tore the pages
which contained the speech for the prosecution out of the Report
and trampled them under my feet--and felt all the better too for
having done it. At the same time I feel a little ashamed of
having revenged myself on the harmless printed leaves n ow.
The fifth day of the Trial opened with the speech for the
defense. Ah, what a contrast to the infamies uttered by the Lord
Advocate was the grand burst of eloquence by the Dean of Faculty,
speaking on my husband's side!
This illustrious lawyer struck the right note at starting.
"I yield to no one," he began, "in the pity I feel for the wife.
But I say, the martyr in this case, from first to last, is the
husband. Whatever the poor woman may have endured, that unhappy
man at the Bar has suffered, and is now suffering, more. If he
had not been the kindest of men, the most docile and most devoted
of husbands, he would never have occupied his present dreadful
situation. A man of a meaner and harder nature would have felt
suspicions of his wife's motives when she asked him to buy
poison--would have seen through the wretchedly commonplace
excuses she made for wanting it--and would have wisely and
cruelly said, 'No.' The prisoner is not that sort of man. He is
too good to his wife, too innocent of any evil thought toward
her, or toward any one, to foresee the inconveniences and the
dangers to which his fatal compliance may expose him. And what is
the result? He stands there, branded as a murderer, because he
was too high-minded and too honorable to suspect his wife."
Speaking thus of the husband, the Dean was just as eloquent and
just as unanswerable when he came to speak of the wife.
"The Lord Advocate," he said, "has asked, with the bitter irony
for which he is celebrated at the Scottish Bar, why we have
failed entirely to prove that the prisoner placed the two packets
of poison in the possession of his wife. I say, in answer, we
have proved, first, that the wife was passionately attached to
the husband; secondly, that she felt bitterly the defects in her
personal appearance, and especially the defects in her
complexion; and, thirdly, that she was informed of arsenic as a
supposed remedy for those defects, taken internally. To men who
know anything of human nature, there is proof enough. Does my
learned friend actually suppose that women are in the habit of
mentioning the secret artifices and applications by which they
improve their personal appearance? Is it in his experience of the
sex that a woman who is eagerly bent on making herself attractive
to a man would tell that man, or tell anybody else who might
communicate with him, that the charm by which she hoped to win
his heart--say the charm of a pretty complexion--had been
artificially acquired by the perilous use of a deadly poison? The
bare idea of such a thing is absurd. Of course nobody ever heard
Mrs. Eustace Macallan speak of arsenic. Of course nobody ever
surprised her in the act of taking arsenic. It is in the evidence
that she would not even confide her intention to try the poison
to the friends who had told her of it as a remedy, and who had
got her the book. She actually begged them to consider their
brief conversation on the subject as strictly private. From first
to last, poor creature, she kept her secret; just as she would
have kept her secret if she had worn false hair, or if she had
been indebted to the dentist for her teeth. And there you see her
husband, in peril of his life, because a woman acted _like_ a
woman--as your wives, gentlemen of the Jury, would, in a similar
position, act toward You."
After such glorious oratory as this (I wish I had room to quote
more of it!), the next, and last, speech delivered at the
Trial--that is to say, the Charge of the Judge to the Jury--is
dreary reading indeed.
His lordship first told the Jury that they could not expect to
have direct evidence of the poisoning. Such evidence hardly ever
occurred in cases of poisoning. They must be satisfied with the
best circumstantial evidence. All quite true, I dare say. But,
having told the Jury they might accept circumstantial evidence,
he turned back again on his own words, and warned them against
being too ready to trust it! "You must have evidence satisfactory
and convincing to your own minds," he said, "in which you find no
conjectures--but only irresistible and just inferences." Who is
to decide what is a just inference? And what is circumstantial
evidence _but_ conjecture?
After this specimen, I need give no further extracts from the
summing up. The Jury, thoroughly bewildered no doubt, took refuge
in a compromise. They occupied an hour in considering and
debating among themselves in their own room. (A jury of women
would not have taken a minute!) Then they returned into Court,
and gave their timid and trimming Scotch Verdict in these words:
Some slight applause followed among the audience, which was
instantly checked. The prisoner was dismissed from the Bar. He
slowly retired, like a man in deep grief: his head sunk on his
breast--not looking at any one, and not replying when his friends
spoke to him. He knew, poor fellow, the slur that the Verdict
left on him. "We don't say you are innocent of the crime charged
against you; we only say there is not evidence enough to convict
you." In that lame and impotent conclusion the proceedings ended
at the time. And there they would have remained for all time--but
I SEE MY WAY.
IN the gray light of the new morning I closed the Report of my
husband's Trial for the Murder of his first Wife.
No sense of fatigue overpowered me. I had no wish, after my long
hours of reading and thinking, to lie down and sleep. It was
strange, but it was so. I felt as if I _had_ slept, and had now
just awakened--a new woman, with a new mind.
I could now at last understand Eustace's desertion of me. To a
man of his refinement it would have been a martyrdom to meet his
wife after she had read the things published of him to all the
world in the Report. I felt that as he would have felt it. At the
same time I thought he might have trusted Me to make amends to
him for the martyrdom, and might have come back. Perhaps it might
yet end in his coming back. In the meanwhile, and in that
expectation, I pitied and forgave him with my whole heart.
One little matter only dwelt on my mind disagreeably, in spite of
my philosophy. Did Eustace still secretly love Mrs. Beauly? or
had I extinguished that passion in him? To what order of beauty
did this lady belong? Were we by any chance, the least in the
world like one another?
The window of my room looked to the east. I drew up the blind,
and saw the sun rising grandly in a clear sky. The temptation to
go out and breathe the fresh morning air was irresistible. I put
on my hat and shawl, and took the Report of the Trial under my
arm. The bolts of the back door were easily drawn. In another
minute I was out in Benjamin's pretty little garden.
Composed and strengthened by the inviting solitude and the
delicious air, I found courage enough to face the serious
question that now confronted me--the question of the future.
I had read the Trial. I had vowed to devote my life to the sacred
object of vindicating my husband's innocence. A solitary,
defenseless woman, I stood pledged to myself to carry that
desperate resolution through to an end. How was I to begin?
The bold way of beginning was surely the wise way in such a
position as mine. I had good reasons (founded, as I have already
mentioned, on the important part played by this witness at the
Trial) for believing that the fittest person to advise and assist
me was--Miserrimus Dexter. He might disappoint the expectations
that I had fixed on him, or he might refuse to help me, or (like
my uncle Starkweather) he might think I had taken leave of my
senses. All these events were possible. Nevertheless, I held to
my resolution to try the experiment. If he were in the land of
the living, I decided that my first step at starting should take
me to the deformed man with the strange name.
Supposing he received me, sympathized with me, understood me?
What would he say? The nurse, in her evidence, had reported him
as speaking in an off-hand manner. He would say, in all
probability, "What do you mean to do? And how can I help you to
Had I answers ready if those two plain questions were put to me?
Yes! if I dared own to any human creatu re what was at that very
moment secretly fermenting in my mind. Yes! if I could confide to
a stranger a suspicion roused in me by the Trial which I have
been thus far afraid to mention even in these pages!
It must, nevertheless, be mentioned now. My suspicion led to
results which are part of my story and part of my life.
Let me own, then, to begin with, that I closed the record of the
Trial actually agreeing in one important particular with the
opinion of my enemy and my husband's enemy--the Lord Advocate! He
had characterized the explanation of Mrs. Eustace Macallan's
death offered by the defense as a "clumsy subterfuge, in which no
reasonable being could discern the smallest fragment of
probability." Without going quite so far as this, I, too, could
see no reason whatever in the evidence for assuming that the poor
woman had taken an overdose of the poison by mistake. I believed
that she had the arsenic secretly in her possession, and that she
had tried, or intended to try, the use of it internally, for the
purpose of improving her complexion. But further than this I
could not advance. The more I thought of it, the more plainly
justified the lawyers for the prosecution seemed to me to be in
declaring that Mrs. Eustace Macallan had died by the hand of a
poisoner--although they were entirely and certainly mistaken in
charging my husband with the crime.
My husband being innocent, somebody else, on my own showing, must
be guilty. Who among the persons inhabiting the house at the time
had poisoned Mrs. Eustace Macallan? My suspicion in answering
that question pointed straight to a woman. And the name of that
woman was--Mrs. Beauly!
Yes! To that startling conclusion I had arrived. It was, to my
mind, the inevitable result of reading the evidence.
Look back for a moment to the letter produced in court, signed
"Helena," and addressed to Mr. Macallan. No reasonable person can
doubt (though the Judges excused her from answering the question)
that Mrs. Beauly was the writer. Very well. The letter offers, as
I think, trustworthy evidence to show the state of the woman's
mind when she paid her visit to Gleninch.
Writing to Mr. Macallan, at a time when she was married to
another man--a man to whom she had engaged herself before she met
with Mr. Macallan what does she say? She says, "When I think of
your life sacrificed to that wretched woman, my heart bleeds for
you." And, again, she says, "If it had been my unutterable
happiness to love and cherish the best, the dearest of men, what
a paradise of our own we might have lived in, what delicious
hours we might have known!"
If this is not the language of a woman shamelessly and furiously
in love with a man--not her husband--what is? She is so full of
him that even her idea of another world (see the letter) is the
idea of "embracing" Mr. Macallan's "soul." In this condition of
mind and morals, the lady one day finds herself and her embraces
free, through the death of her husband. As soon as she can
decently visit she goes visiting; and in due course of time she
becomes the guest of the man whom she adores. His wife is ill in
her bed. The one other visitor at Gleninch is a cripple, who can
only move in his chair on wheels. The lady has the house and the
one beloved object in it all to herself. No obstacle stands
between her and "the unutterable happiness of loving and
cherishing the best, the dearest of men" but a poor, sick, ugly
wife, for whom Mr. Macallan never has felt, and never can feel,
the smallest particle of love.
Is it perfectly absurd to believe that such a woman as this,
impelled by these motives, and surrounded by these circumstances,
would be capable of committing a crime--if the safe opportunity
What does her own evidence say?
She admits that she had a conversation with Mrs. Eustace
Macallan, in which that lady questioned her on the subject of
cosmetic applications to the complexion." Did nothing else take
place at that interview? Did Mrs. Beauly make no discoveries
(afterward turned to fatal account) of the dangerous experiment
which her hostess was then trying to improve her ugly complexion?
All we know is that Mrs. Beauly said nothing about it.
What does the under-gardener say?
He heard a conversation between Mr. Macallan and Mrs. Beauly,
which shows that the possibility of Mrs. Beauly becoming Mrs.
Eustace Macallan had certainly presented itself to that lady's
mind, and was certainly considered by her to be too dangerous a
topic of discourse to be pursued. Innocent Mr. Macallan would
have gone on talking. Mrs. Beauly is discreet and stops him.
And what does the nurse (Christina Ormsay) tell us?
On the day of Mrs. Eustace Macallan's death, the nurse is
dismissed from attendance, and is sent downstairs. She leaves the
sick woman, recovered from her first attack of illness, and able
to amuse herself with writing. The nurse remains away for half an
hour, and then gets uneasy at not hearing the invalid's bell. She
goes to the Morning-Room to consult Mr. Macallan, and there she
hears that Mrs. Beauly is missing. Mr. Macallan doesn't know
where she is, and asks Mr. Dexter if he has seen her. Mr. Dexter
had not set eyes on her. At what time does the disappearance of
Mrs. Beauly take place? At the very time when Christina Ormsay
had left Mrs. Eustace Macallan alone in her room!
Meanwhile the bell rings at last--rings violently. The nurse goes
back to the sick-room at five minutes to eleven, or thereabouts,
and finds that the bad symptoms of the morning have returned in a
gravely aggravated form. A second dose of poison--larger than the
dose administered in the early morning--has been given during the
absence of the nurse, and (observe) during the disappearance also
of Mrs. Beauly. The nurse looking out into the corridor for help,
encounters Mrs. Beauly herself, innocently on her way from her
own room--just up, we are to suppose, at eleven in the
morning!--to inquire after the sick woman.
A little later Mrs. Beauly accompanies Mr. Macallan to visit the
invalid. The dying woman casts a strange look at both of them,
and tells them to leave her. Mr. Macallan understands this as the
fretful outbreak of a person in pain, and waits in the room to
tell the nurse that the doctor is sent for. What does Mrs. Beauly
She runs out panic-stricken the instant Mrs. Eustace Macallan
looks at her. Even Mrs. Beauly, it seems, has a conscience!
Is there nothing to justify suspicion in such circumstances as
these--circumstances sworn to on the oaths of the witnesses?
To me the conclusion is plain. Mrs. Beauly's hand gave that
second dose of poison. Admit this; and the inference follows that
she also gave the first dose in the early morning. How could she
do it? Look again at the evidence. The nurse admits that she was
asleep from past two in the morning to six. She also speaks of a
locked door of communication with the sickroom, the key of which
had been removed, nobody knew by whom. Some person must have
stolen that key. Why not Mrs. Beauly?
One word more, and all that I had in my mind at that time will be
Miserrimus Dexter, under cross-examination, had indirectly
admitted that he had ideas of his own on the subject of Mrs.
Eustace Macallan's death. At the same time he had spoken of Mrs.
Beauly in a tone which plainly betrayed that he was no friend to
that lady. Did _he_ suspect her too? My chief motive in deciding
to ask his advice before I applied to any one else was to find an
opportunity of putting that question to him. If he really thought
of her as I did, my course was clear before me. The next step to
take would be carefully to conceal my identity--and then to
present myself, in the character of a harmless stranger, to Mrs.
There were difficulties, of course, in my way. The first and
greatest difficulty was to obtain an introduction to Miserrimus
The composing influence of the fresh air in the garden had by
this time made me readier to lie down and rest than to occupy my
mind in reflecting on my difficulties. Little by little I grew
too drowsy to think--then too lazy to go on walking. My bed
looked wonderfully inviting as I passed
by the open window of my room.
In five minutes more I had accepted the invitation of the bed,
and had said farewell to my anxieties and my troubles. In five
minutes more I was fast asleep.
A discreetly gentle knock at my door was the first sound that
aroused me. I heard the voice of my good old Benjamin speaking
"My dear! I am afraid you will be starved if I let you sleep any
longer. It is half-past one o'clock; and a friend of yours has
come to lunch with us."
A friend of mine? What friends had I? My husband was far away;
and my uncle Starkweather had given me up in despair.
"Who is it?" I cried out from my bed, through the door.
"Major Fitz-David," Benjamin answered, by the same medium.
I sprang out of bed. The very man I wanted was waiting to see me!
Major Fitz-David, as the phrase is, knew everybody. Intimate with
my husband, he would certainly know my husband's old
Shall I confess that I took particular pains with my toilet, and
that I kept the luncheon waiting? The woman doesn't live who
would have done otherwise--when she had a particular favor to ask
of Major Fitz-David.
THE MAJOR MAKES DIFFICULTIES.
As I opened the dining-room door the Major hastened to meet me.
He looked the brightest and the youngest of living elderly
gentlemen, with his smart blue frock-coat, his winning smile, his
ruby ring, and his ready compliment. It was quite cheering to
meet the modern Don Juan once more.
"I don't ask after your health," said the old gentleman; "your
eyes answer me, my dear lady, before I can put the question. At
your age a long sleep is the true beauty-draught. Plenty of
bed--there is the simple secret of keeping your good looks and
living a long life--plenty of bed!"
"I have not been so long in my bed, Major, as you suppose. To
tell the truth, I have been up all night, reading."
Major Fitz-David lifted his well-painted eyebrows in polite
"What is the happy book which has interested you so deeply?" he
"The book," I answered, "is the Trial of my husband for the
murder of his first wife."
"Don't mention that horrid book!" he exclaimed. "Don't speak of
that dreadful subject! What have beauty and grace to do with
Trials, Poisonings, Horrors? Why, my charming friend, profane
your lips by talking of such things? Why frighten away the Loves
and the Graces that lie hid in your smile. Humor an old fellow
who adores the Loves and the Graces, and who asks nothing better
than to sun himself in your smiles. Luncheon is ready. Let us be
cheerful. Let us laugh and lunch."
He led me to the table, and filled my plate and my glass with the
air of a man who considered himself to be engaged in one of the
most important occupations of his life. Benjamin kept the
conversation going in the interval.
"Major Fitz-David brings you some news, my dear," he said. "Your
mother-in-law, Mrs. Macallan, is coming here to see you to-day."
My mother-in-law coming to see me! I turned eagerly to the Major
for further information.
"Has Mrs. Macallan heard anything of my husband?" I asked. "Is
she coming here to tell me about him?"
"She has heard from him, I believe," said the Major, "and she has
also heard from your uncle the vicar. Our excellent Starkweather
has written to her--to what purpose I have not been informed. I
only know that on receipt of his letter she has decided on paying
you a visit. I met the old lady last night at a party, and I
tried hard to discover whether she were coming to you as your
friend or your enemy. My powers of persuasion were completely
thrown away on her. The fact is," said the Major, speaking in the
character of a youth of five-and-twenty making a modest
confession, "I don't get on well with old women. Take the will
for the deed, my sweet friend. I have tried to be of some use to
you and have failed."
Those words offered me the opportunity for which I was waiting. I
determined not to lose it.
"You can be of the greatest use to me," I said, "if you will
allow me to presume, Major, on your past kindness. I want to ask
you a question; and I may have a favor to beg when you have
Major Fitz-David set down his wine-glass on its way to his lips,
and looked at me with an appearance of breathless interest.
"Command me, my dear lady--I am yours and yours only," said the
gallant old gentleman. "What do you wish to ask me?"
"I wish to ask if you know Miserrimus Dexter."
"Good Heavens!" cried the Major; "that _is_ an unexpected
question! Know Miserrimus Dexter? I have known him for more years
than I like to reckon up. What _can_ be your object--"
"I can tell you what my object is in two words," I interposed. "I
want you to give me an introduction to Miserrimus Dexter."
My impression is that the Major turned pale under his paint.
This, at any rate, is certain--his sparkling little gray eyes
looked at me in undisguised bewilderment and alarm.
"You want to know Miserrimus Dexter?" he repeated, with the air
of a man who doubted the evidence of his own senses. "Mr.
Benjamin, have I taken too much of your excellent wine? Am I the
victim of a delusion--or did our fair friend really ask me to
give her an introduction to Miserrimus Dexter?"
Benjamin looked at me in some bewilderment on his side, and
answered, quite seriously,
"I think you said so, my dear."
"I certainly said so," I rejoined. "What is there so very
surprising in my request?"
"The man is mad!" cried the Major. "In all England you could not
have picked out a person more essentially unfit to be introduced
to a lady--to a young lady especially--than Dexter. Have you
heard of his horrible deformity?"
"I have heard of it--and it doesn't daunt me."
"Doesn't daunt you? My dear lady, the man's mind is as deformed
as his body. What Voltaire said satirically of the character of
his countrymen in general is literally true of Miserrimus Dexter.
He is a mixture of the tiger and the monkey. At one moment he
would frighten you, and at the next he would set you screaming
with laughter. I don't deny that he is clever in some
respects--brilliantly clever, I admit. And I don't say that he
has ever committed any acts of violence, or ever willingly
injured anybody. But, for all that, he is mad, if ever a man were
mad yet. Forgive me if the inquiry is impertinent. What can your
motive possibly be for wanting an introduction to Miserrimus
"I want to consult him?"
"May I ask on what subject?"
"On the subject of my husband's Trial."
Major Fitz-David groaned, and sought a momentary consolation in
his friend Benjamin's claret.
"That dreadful subject again!" he exclaimed. "Mr. Benjamin, why
does she persist in dwelling on that dreadful subject?"
"I must dwell on what is now the one employment and the one hope
of my life," I said. "I have reason to hope that Miserrimus
Dexter can help me to clear my husband's character of the stain
which the Scotch Verdict has left on it. Tiger and monkey as he
may be, I am ready to run the risk of being introduced to him.
And I ask you again--rashly and obstinately as I fear you will
think--to give me the introduction. It will put you to no
inconvenience. I won't trouble you to escort me; a letter to Mr.
Dexter will do."
The Major looked piteously at Benjamin, and shook his head.
Benjamin looked piteously at the Major, and shook _his_ head.
"She appears to insist on it," said the Major.
"Yes," said Benjamin. "She appears to insist on it."
"I won't take the responsibility, Mr. Benjamin, of sending her
alone to Miserrimus Dexter."
"Shall I go with her, sir?"
The Major reflected. Benjamin, in the capacity of protector, did
not appear to inspire our military friend with confidence. After
a moment's consideration a new idea seemed to strike him. He
turned to me.
"My charming friend," he said, "be more charming than
ever--consent to a compromise. Let us treat this difficulty about
Dexter from a social point of view. What do you say to a little
"A little dinner?" I repeated, not in the least understanding
"A little dinner," the Major reiterated, "at my house. You insist
on my introducing you to Dexter, and I refuse to trust you alone
with th at crack-brained personage. The only alternative under
the circumstances is to invite him to meet you, and to let you
form your own opinion of him--under the protection of my roof.
Who shall we have to meet you besides?" pursued the Major,
brightening with hospitable intentions. "We want a perfect galaxy
of beauty around the table, as a species of compensation when we
have got Miserrimus Dexter as one the guests. Madame Mirliflore
is still in London. You would be sure to like her--she is
charming; she possesses your firmness, your extraordinary
tenacity of purpose. Yes, we will have Madame Mirliflore. Who
else? Shall we say Lady Clarinda? Another charming person, Mr.
Benjamin! You would be sure to admire her--she is so sympathetic,
she resembles in so many respects our fair friend here. Yes, Lady
Clarinda shall be one of us; and you shall sit next to her, Mr.
Benjamin, as a proof of my sincere regard for you. Shall we have
my young prima donna to sing to us in the evening? think so. She
is pretty; she will assist in obscuring the deformity of Dexter.
Very well; there is our party complete! I will shut myself up
this evening and approach the question of dinner with my cook.
Shall we say this day week," asked the Major, taking out his
pocketbook, "at eight o'clock?"
I consented to the proposed compromise--but not very willingly.
With a letter of introduction, I might have seen Miserrimus
Dexter that afternoon. As it was, the "little dinner" compelled
me to wait in absolute inaction through a whole week. However,
there was no help for it but to submit. Major Fitz-David, in his
polite way, could be as obstinate as I was. He had evidently made
up his mind; and further opposition on my part would be of no
service to me.
"Punctually at eight, Mr. Benjamin," reiterated the Major. "Put
it down in your book."
Benjamin obeyed--with a side look at me, which I was at no loss
to interpret. My good old friend did not relish meeting a man at
dinner who was described as "half tiger, half monkey;" and the
privilege of sitting next to Lady Clarinda rather daunted than
delighted him. It was all my doing, and he too had no choice but
to submit. "Punctually at eight, sir," said poor old Benjamin,
obediently recording his formidable engagement. "Please to take
another glass of wine."
The Major looked at his watch, and rose--with fluent apologies
for abruptly leaving the table.
"It is later than I thought," he said. "I have an appointment
with a friend--a female friend; a most attractive person. You a
little remind me of her, my dear lady--you resemble her in
complexion: the same creamy paleness. I adore creamy paleness. As
I was saying, I have an appointment with my friend; she does me
the honor to ask my opinion on some very remarkable specimens of
old lace. I have studied old lace. I study everything that can
make me useful or agreeable to your enchanting sex. You won't
forget our little dinner? I will send Dexter his invitation the
moment I get home. "He took my hand and looked at it critically,
with his head a little on one side. "A delicious hand," he said;
"you don't mind my looking at it--you don't mind my kissing it,
do you? A delicious hand is one of my weaknesses. Forgive my
weaknesses. I promise to repent and amend one of these days."
"At your age, Major, do you think you have much time to lose?"
asked a strange voice, speaking behind us.
We all three looked around toward the door. There stood my
husband's mother, smiling satirically, with Benjamin's shy little
maid-servant waiting to announce her.
Major Fitz-David was ready with his answer.
The old soldier was not easily taken by surprise.
"Age, my dear Mrs. Macallan, is a purely relative expression," he
said. "There are some people who are never young, and there are
other people who are never old. I am one of the other people. _Au
With that answer the incorrigible Major kissed the tips of his
fingers to us and walked out. Benjamin, bowing with his
old-fashioned courtesy, threw open the door of his little
library, and, inviting Mrs. Macallan and myself to pass in, left
us together in the room.
MY MOTHER-IN-LAW SURPRISES ME.
I TOOK a chair at a respectful distance from the sofa on which
Mrs. Macallan seated herself. The old lady smiled, and beckoned
to me to take my place by her side. Judging by appearances, she
had certainly not come to see me in the character of an enemy. It
remained to be discovered I whether she were really disposed to
be my friend.
"I have received a letter from your uncle the vicar," she began.
"He asks me to visit you, and I am happy--for reasons which you
shall presently hear--to comply with his request. Under other
circumstances I doubt very much, my dear child--strange as the
confession may appear--whether I should have ventured into your
presence. My son has behaved to you so weakly, and (in my
opinion) so inexcusably, that I am really, speaking as his
mother, almost ashamed to face you."
Was she in earnest? I listened to her and looked at her in
"Your uncle's letter," pursued Mrs. Macallan, "tells me how you
have behaved under your hard trial, and what you propose to do
now Eustace has left you. Doctor Starkweather, poor man, seems to
be inexpressibly shocked by what you said to him when he was in
London. He begs me to use my influence to induce you to abandon
your present ideas, and to make you return to your old home at
the Vicarage. I don't in the least agree with your uncle, my
dear. Wild as I believe your plans to be--you have not the
slightest chance of succeeding in carrying them out--I admire
your courage, your fidelity, your unshaken faith in my unhappy
son, after his unpardonable behavior to you. You are a fine
creature, Valeria, and I have come here to tell you so in plain
words. Give me a kiss, child. You deserve to be the wife of a
hero, and you have married one of the weakest of living mortals.
God forgive me for speaking so of my own son; but it's in my
mind, and it must come out!"
This way of speaking of Eustace was more than I could suffer,
even from his mother. I recovered the use of my tongue in my
"I am sincerely proud of your good opinion, dear Mrs. Macallan,"
I said. "But you distress me--forgive me if I own it
plainly--when I hear you speak so disparagingly of Eustace. I
cannot agree with you that my husband is the weakest of living
"Of course not!" retorted the old lady. "You are like all good
women--you make a hero of the man you love,--whether he deserve
it or not. Your husband has hosts of good qualities, child--and
perhaps I know them better than you do. But his whole conduct,
from the moment when he first entered your uncle's house to the
present time, has been, I say again, the conduct of an
essentially weak man. What do you think he has done now by way of
climax? He has joined a charitable brotherhood; and he is off to
the war in Spain with a red cross on his arm, when he ought to be
here on his knees, asking his wife to forgive him. I say that is
the conduct of a weak man. Some people might call it by a harder
This news startled and distressed me. I might be resigned to his
leaving me for a time; but all my instincts as a woman revolted
at his placing himself in a position of danger during his
separation from his wife. He had now deliberately added to my
anxieties. I thought it cruel of him--but I would not confess
what I thought to his mother. I affected to be as cool as she
was; and I disputed her conclusions with all the firmness that I
could summon to help me. The terrible old woman only went on
abusing him more vehemently than ever.
"What I complain of in my son," proceeded Mrs. Macallan, "is that
he has entirely failed to understand you. If he had married a
fool, his conduct would be intelligible enough. He would have
done wisely to conceal from a fool that he had been married
already, and that he had suffered the horrid public exposure of a
Trial for the murder of his wife. Then, again, he would have been
quite right, when this same fool had discovered the truth, to
take himself out of her way before she could suspect him of
poisoning he r--for the sake of the peace and quiet of both
parties. But you are not a fool. I can see that, after only a
short experience of you. Why can't he see it too? Why didn't he
trust you with his secret from the first, instead of stealing his
way into your affections under an assumed name? Why did he plan
(as he confessed to me) to take you away to the Mediterranean,
and to keep you abroad, for fear of some officious friends at
home betraying him to you as the prisoner of the famous Trial?
What is the plain answer to all these questions? What is the one
possible explanation of this otherwise unaccountable conduct?
There is only one answer, and one explanation. My poor, wretched
son--he takes after his father; he isn't the least like me!--is
weak: weak in his way of judging, weak in his way of acting, and,
like all weak people, headstrong and unreasonable to the last
degree. There is the truth! Don't get red and angry. I am as fond
of him as you are. I can see his merits too. And one of them is
that he has married a woman of spirit and resolution--so faithful
and so fond of him that she won't even let his own mother tell
her of his faults. Good child! I like you for hating me!"
"Dear madam, don't say that I hate you!" I exclaimed (feeling
very much as if I did hate her, though, for all that). "I only
presume to think that you are confusing a delicate-minded man
with a weak-minded man. Our dear unhappy Eustace--"
"Is a delicate-minded man," said the impenetrable Mrs. Macallan,
finishing my sentence for me. "We will leave it there, my dear,
and get on to another subject. I wonder whether we shall disagree
about that too?"
"What is the subject, madam?"
"I won't tell you if you call me madam. Call me mother. Say,
'What is the subject, mother?'"
"What is the subject, mother?"
"Your notion of turning yourself into a Court of Appeal for a new
Trial of Eustace, and forcing the world to pronounce a just
verdict on him. Do you really mean to try it?"
Mrs. Macallan considered for a moment grimly with herself.
"You know how heartily I admire your courage, and your devotion
to my unfortunate son," she said. "You know by this time that _I_
don't cant. But I cannot see you attempt to perform
impossibilities; I cannot let you uselessly risk your reputation
and your happiness without warning you before it is too late. My
child, the thing you have got it in your head to do is not to be
done by you or by anybody. Give it up."
"I am deeply obliged to you, Mrs. Macallan--"
"I am deeply obliged to you, mother, for the interest that you
take in me, but I cannot give it up. Right or wrong, risk or no
risk, I must and I will try it!"
Mrs. Macallan looked at me very attentively, and sighed to
"Oh, youth, youth!" she said to herself, sadly. "What a grand
thing it is to be young!" She controlled the rising regret, and
turned on me suddenly, almost fiercely, with these words: "What,
in God's name, do you mean to do?"
At the instant when she put the question, the idea crossed my
mind that Mrs. Macallan could introduce me, if she pleased, to
Miserrimus Dexter. She must know him, and know him well, as a
guest at Gleninch and an old friend of her son.
"I mean to consult Miserrimus Dexter," I answered, boldly.
Mrs. Macallan started back from me with a loud exclamation of
"Are you out of your senses?" she asked.
I told her, as I had told Major Fitz-David, that I had reason to
think Mr. Dexter's advice might be of real assistance to me at
"And I," rejoined Mrs. Macallan, "have reason to think that your
whole project is a mad one, and that in asking Dexter's advice on
it you appropriately consult a madman. You needn't start, child!
There is no harm in the creature. I don't mean that he will
attack you, or be rude to you. I only say that the last person
whom a young woman, placed in your painful and delicate position,
ought to associate herself with is Miserrimus Dexter."
Strange! Here was the Major's warning repeated by Mrs. Macallan,
almost in the Major's own words. Well! It shared the fate of most
warnings. It only made me more and more eager to have my own way.
"You surprise me very much," I said. "Mr. Dexter's evidence,
given at the Trial, seems as clear and reasonable as evidence can
"Of course it is!" answered Mrs. Macallan. "The shorthand writers
and reporters put his evidence into presentable language before
they printed it. If you had heard what he really said, as I did,
you would have been either very much disgusted with him or very
much amused by him, according to your way of looking at things.
He began, fairly enough, with a modest explanation of his absurd
Christian name, which at once checked the merriment of the
audience. But as he went on the mad side of him showed itself. He
mixed up sense and nonsense in the strangest confusion; he was
called to order over and over again; he was even threatened with
fine and imprisonment for contempt of Court. In short, he was
just like himself--a mixture of the strangest and the most
opposite qualities; at one time perfectly clear and reasonable,
as you said just now; at another breaking out into rhapsodies of
the most outrageous kind, like a man in a state of delirium. A
more entirely unfit person to advise anybody, I tell you again,
never lived. You don't expect Me to introduce you to him, I
"I did think of such a thing," I answered. "But after what you
have said, dear Mrs. Macallan, I give up the idea, of course. It
is not a great sacrifice--it only obliges me to wait a week for
Major Fitz-David's dinner-party. He has promised to ask
Miserrimus Dexter to meet me."
"There is the Major all over!" cried the old lady. "If you pin
your faith on that man, I pity you. He is as slippery as an eel.
I suppose you asked him to introduce you to Dexter?"
"Exactly! Dexter despises him, my dear. He knows as well as I do
that Dexter won't go to his dinner. And he takes that roundabout
way of keeping you apart, instead of saying No to you plainly,
like an honest man.
This was bad news. But I was, as usual, too obstinate to own
"If the worst comes to the worst," I said, "I can but write to
Mr. Dexter, and beg him to grant me an interview."
"And go to him by yourself, if he does grant it?" inquired Mrs.
"Certainly. By myself."
"You really mean it?"
"I do, indeed."
"I won't allow you to go by yourself."
"May I venture to ask, ma'am how you propose to prevent me?"
"By going with you, to be sure, you obstinate hussy! Yes, yes--I
can be as headstrong as you are when I like. Mind! I don't want
to know what your plans are. I don't want to be mixed up with
your plans. My son is resigned to the Scotch Verdict. I am
resigned to the Scotch Verdict. It is you who won't let matters
rest as they are. You are a vain and foolhardy young person. But,
somehow, I have taken a liking to you, and I won't let you go to
Miserrimus Dexter by yourself. Put on your bonnet!"
"Now?" I asked.
"Certainly! My carriage is at the door. And the sooner it's over
the better I shall be pleased. Get ready--and be quick about it!"
I required no second bidding. In ten minutes more we were on our
way to Miserrimus Dexter.
Such was the result of my mother-in-law's visit!
MISERRIMUS DEXTER--FIRST VIEW.
WE had dawdled over our luncheon before Mrs. Macallan arrived at
Benjamin's cottage. The ensuing conversation between the old lady
and myself (of which I have only presented a brief abstract)
lasted until quite late in the afternoon. The sun was setting in
heavy clouds when we got into the carriage, and the autumn
twilight began to fall around us while we were still on the road.
The direction in which we drove took us (as well as I could
judge) toward the great northern suburb of London.
For more than an hour the carriage threaded its way through a
dingy brick labyrinth of streets, growing smaller and smaller and
dirtier and dirtier the further we went. Emerging from the
labyrinth, I noticed in the gathering darkness dreary patches of
waste ground which seemed to be neither town nor country.
Crossing these, we passed some forlorn outlying groups of houses
with dim little scattered shops among them, looking like lost
country villages wandering on the way to London, disfigured and
smoke-dried already by their journey. Darker and darker and
drearier and drearier the prospect drew, until the carriage
stopped at last, and Mrs. Macallan announced, in her sharply
satirical way, that we had reached the end of our journey.
"Prince Dexter's Palace, my dear," she said. "What do you think
I looked around me, not knowing what to think of it, if the truth
must be told.
We had got out of the carriage, and we were standing on a rough
half-made gravel-path. Right and left of me, in the dim light, I
saw the half-completed foundations of new houses in their first
stage of existence. Boards and bricks were scattered about us. At
places gaunt scaffolding poles rose like the branchless trees of
the brick desert. Behind us, on the other side of the high-road,
stretched another plot of waste ground, as yet not built on. Over
the surface of this second desert the ghostly white figures of
vagrant ducks gleamed at intervals in the mystic light. In front
of us, at a distance of two hundred yards or so as well as I
could calculate, rose a black mass, which gradually resolved
itself, as my eyes became accustomed to the twilight, into a
long, low, and ancient house, with a hedge of evergreens and a
pitch-black paling in front of it. The footman led the way toward
the paling through the boards and the bricks, the oyster shells
and the broken crockery, that strewed the ground. And this was
"Prince Dexter's Palace!"
There was a gate in the pitch-black paling, and a
bell-handle--discovered with great difficulty. Pulling at the
handle, the footman set in motion, to judge by the sound
produced, a bell of prodigious size, fitter for a church than a
While we were waiting for admission, Mrs. Macallan pointed to the
low, dark line of the old building.
"There is one of his madnesses," she said. "The speculators in
this new neighborhood have offered him I don't know how many
thousand pounds for the ground that house stands on. It was
originally the manor-house of the district. Dexter purchased it
many years since in one of his freaks of fancy. He has no old
family associations with the place; the walls are all but
tumbling about his ears; and the money offered would really be of
use to him. But no! He refused the proposal of the enterprising
speculators by letter in these words: 'My house is a standing
monument of the picturesque and beautiful, amid the mean,
dishonest, and groveling constructions of a mean, dishonest, and
groveling age. I keep my house, gentlemen, as a useful lesson to
you. Look at it while you are building around me, and blush, if
you can, for your work.' Was there ever such an absurd letter
written yet? Hush! I hear footsteps in the garden. Here comes his
cousin. His cousin is a woman. I may as well tell you that, or
you might mistake her for a man in the dark."
A rough, deep voice, which I should certainly never have supposed
to be the voice of a woman, hailed us from the inner side of the
"Mrs. Macallan," answered my mother-in-law.
"What do you want?"
"We want to see Dexter."
"You can't see him."
"What did you say your name was?"
"Macallan. Mrs. Macallan. Eustace Macallan's mother. _Now_ do you
The voice muttered and grunted behind the paling, and a key
turned in the lock of the gate.
Admitted to the garden, in the deep shadow of the shrubs, I could
see nothing distinctly of the woman with the rough voice, except
that she wore a man's hat. Closing the gate behind us, without a
word of welcome or explanation, she led the way to the house.
Mrs. Macallan followed her easily, knowing the place; and I
walked in Mrs. Macallan's footsteps as closely as I could. "This
is a nice family," my mother-in-law whispered to me. "Dexter's
cousin is the only woman in the house--and Dexter's cousin is an
We entered a spacious hall with a low ceiling, dimly lighted at
its further end by one small oil-lamp. I could see that there
were pictures on the grim, brown walls, but the subjects
represented were invisible in the obscure and shadowy light.
Mrs. Macallan addressed herself to the speechless cousin with the
"Now tell me," she said. "Why can't we see Dexter?"
The cousin took a sheet of paper off the table, and handed it to
"The Master's writing," said this strange creature, in a hoarse
whisper, as if the bare idea of "the Master" terrified her. "Read