Part 6 out of 11
t'other! Fo' Gawd! t'other made your teeth ache, and sot you cross-
eyed to look at it. He toted a awful brand to be shore."
"What do you mean by one side? Explain yourself carefully now."
"I dun'no as I can 'splain, 'cause I ain't never seed nothing like
it afore. One 'zact half of him, from his hair to his shirt collar
was white and pretty, like I tell you, but t'other side of his face
was black as tar, and his kurly hair was gone, and the whiskers on
that side--and his eye was drapped down kinder so, and that side of
his mouth sorter hung, like it was unpinned, this way. Mebbee he was
born so, mebbee not; but he looked like he had jes broke loose from
the conjur, and caryd his mark."
For one fleeting moment, the gates of heaven seemed thrown wide, and
the glory of the Kingdom of Peace streamed down upon the aching
heart of the desolate woman. She could recognize no dreaded
resemblance in the photograph drawn by the witness; and judge, jury
and counsel who scrutinized her during the recital of the testimony,
were puzzled by the smile of joy that suddenly flashed over her
features, like ilie radiance of a lamp lifted close to some marble
face, dim with shadows.
"Do you think his face indicated that he had been engaged in a
difficulty, in a fight? Was there any sign of blood, or anything
that looked as if he had been bruised and wounded by some heavy
"Naw, sir. Didn't seem like sech bruises as comes of fightin'.
'Peared to me he was somehow branded like, and the mark he toted was
"If he had wished to disguise himself by blackening one side of his
face, would he not have presented a similar appearance?"
"Naw, sir, not by no manner of means. No minstrel tricks fotch him
to the pass he was at. The hand of the Lord must have laid too heavy
on him; no mortal wounds leave sech terrifyin' prints."
"How was he dressed?"
"Dunno. My eyes never drapped below that curus face of his'n."
"Was he bareheaded?"
"Bar headed as when he come into the world."
"He talked like a man in desperate haste, who was running to escape
"He shorely did."
"Did you mention to any person what you have told here to-day?"
"I tole my ole 'oman, and she said she reckoned it was a buth mark
what the man carryd; but when I seen him I thunk he was cunjured"
"When you heard that Gen'l Darrington had been murdered, did you
think of this man and his singular behavior that night?"
"I never hearn of the murder till Christmas, 'cause I went down to
Elbert County arter a yoke of steers what a man owed me, and thar I
tuck sick and kep my bed for weeks. When I got home, and hearn the
talk about the murder, I didn't know it was the same night what I
seen the branded man."
"Tell the Court how your testimony was secured."
"It was norated in all our churches that a 'ward was offered for a
lame cullud pusson of my 'scription, and Deacon Nathan he cum down
and axed me what mischief I'de been a doin', that I was wanted to
answer fur. He read me the 'vertisement, and pussuaded me to go with
him to your office, and you tuck me to Mr. Churchill."
Mr. Dunbar bowed to the District Solicitor, who rose and cross-
"Can you read?"
"Where is your son Deucalion?"
"Two days after I left town he want with a 'Love and Charity'
scurschion up north, and he liked it so well in Baltymore, he staid
"When Deacon Nathan brought you up to town, did you know for what
purpose Mr. Dunbar wanted you?"
"Was it not rather strange that none of your friends recognized the
description of you, published in the paper?"
"Seems some of 'em did, but felt kind of jub'rus 'bout pinting me
out, for human natur is prone to crooked ways, and they never hearn
I perfessed sanctification."
"Who told you the prisoner had heard your conversation with the man
you met that night?"
"Did she hear it? Then you are the first pusson to tell me."
"How long was it, after you saw the man, before you heard the
whistle of the freight train?"
"As nigh as I kin rickolect about a half a hour, but not quite."
"Was it raining at all when you saw the woman standing on the
"Naw, sir. The trees was dripping steady, but the moon was shining."
"Do you know anything about the statement made by the prisoner?"
As Isam withdrew, a middle-aged man took the stand, and in answer to
Mr. Dunbar's questions deposed: "That he was 'bridge tender' on the
railroad, and lived in a cottage not far from the water tank. On the
night of the twenty-sixth of October, he was sitting up with a sick
wife, and remembered that being feverish, she asked for some fresh
water. He went out to draw some from the well, and saw a man
standing not far from the bridge. The moon was behind a row of
trees, but he noticed the man was bareheaded, and when he called to
know what he wanted, he walked back toward the tank. Five minutes
later the freight train blew, and after it had crossed the bridge,
he went back to his cottage. The man was standing close to the
safety signal, a white light fastened to an iron stanchion at south
end of the bridge, and seemed to be reading something. Next day,
when he (witness) went as usual to examine the piers and under
portions of the bridge, he had found the pipe, now in Mr. Dunbar's
possession. Tramps so often rested on the bridge, and on the
shelving bank of the river beneath it, that he attached no
importance to the circumstance; but felt confident the pipe was left
by the man whom he had seen, as it was not there the previous
afternoon; and he put it in a pigeon-hole of his desk, thinking the
owner might return to claim it. On the same day, he had left X--to
carry his wife to her mother, who lived in Pennsylvania, and was
absent for several weeks. Had never associated the pipe with the
murder, but after talking with Mr. Dunbar, who had found the half of
an envelope near the south end of the bridge, he had surrendered it
to him. Did not see the man's face distinctly. He looked tall and
Here Mr. Dunbar held up a fragment of a long white em elope such as
usually contain legal documents, on which in large letters was
written "LAST WILL"--and underscored with red ink. Then he lifted a
pipe, for the inspection of the witness, who identified it as the
one he had found.
As he turned it slowly, the Court and the multitude saw only a
meerschaum with a large bowl representing a death's head, to which
was attached a short mouth-piece of twisted amber.
The golden gates of hope clashed suddenly, and over them flashed a
drawn sword, as Beryl looked at the familiar pipe, which her baby
fingers had so often strained to grasp. How well she knew the
ghastly ivory features, the sunken eyeless sockets--of that
veritable death's head? How vividly came back the day, when asleep
in her father's arms, a spark from that grinning skull had fallen on
her cheek, and she awoke to find that fond father bending in
remorseful tenderness over her? Years ago, she had reverently packed
the pipe away, with other articles belonging to the dead, and
ignorant that her mother had given it to Bertie, she deemed it safe
in that sacred repository. Now, like the face of Medusa it glared at
her, and that which her father's lips had sanctified, became the
polluted medium of a retributive curse upon his devoted child. So
the Diabolus ex machina, the evil genius of each human life decrees
that the most cruel cureless pangs are inflicted by the instruments
we love best.
Watching for some sign of recognition, Mr. Dunbar's heart was fired
with jealous rage, as he marked the swift change of the prisoner's
countenance; the vanishing of the gleam of hope, the gloomy
desperation that succeeded. The beautiful black brows met in a spasm
of pain over eyes that stared at an abyss of ruin; her lips
whitened, she wrung her hands unconsciously; and then, as if numb
with horror, she leaned back in her chair, and her chin sank until
it touched the black ribbon at her throat. When after a while she
rallied, and forced herself to listen, a pleasant-faced young man
was on the witness stand.
"My name is Edgar Jennings, and I live at T----, in Pennsylvania. I
am ticket agent at that point, of----railway. One day, about the
last of October (I think it was on Monday), I was sitting in my
office when a man came in, and asked if I could sell him a ticket to
St. Paul. I told him I only had tickets as far as Chicago, via
Cincinnati. He bought one to Cincinnati and asked how soon he could
go on. I told him the train from the east was due in a few minutes.
When he paid for his ticket he gave me a twenty-dollar gold piece,
and his hand shook so, he dropped another piece of the same value on
the floor. His appearance was so remarkable I noticed him
particularly. He was a man about my age, very tall and finely made,
but one half of his face was black, or rather very dark blue, and he
wore a handkerchief bandage-fashion across it. His left eye was
drawn down, this way, and his mouth was one-sided. His right eye was
black, and his hair was very light brown. He wore a close-fitting
wool hat, that flapped down and his clothes were seal-brown in
color, but much worn, and evidently old. I asked him where he lived,
and he said he was a stranger going West, on a pioneering tour. Then
I asked what ailed his face, and he pulled the handkerchief over his
left eye, and said he was partly paralyzed from an accident. Just
then, the eastern train blew for T----. He said he wanted some
cigars or a pipe, as he had lost his own on the way, and wondered if
he would have time to go out and buy some. I told him no; but that
he could have a couple of cigars from my box. He thanked me, and
took two, laying down a silver dime on top of the box. He put his
hand in the inside pocket of his coat, and pulled out an empty
envelope, twisted it, lit it by the coal fire in the grate, and
lighted his cigar. The train rolled into the station; he passed out,
and I saw him jump aboard the front passenger coach. He had thrown
the paper, as he thought, into the fire, but it slipped off the
grate, fell just inside the fender, and the flame went out. There
was something so very peculiar in his looks and manner, that I
thought there was some mystery about his movements. I picked up the
paper, saw the writing on it, and locked it up in my cash drawer. He
had evidently been a very handsome man, before his 'accident', but
he had a jaded, worried, wretched look. When a detective from
Baltimore interviewed me, I told him all I knew, and gave him the
Again Mr. Dunbar drew closer to the jury, held up the former
fragment of envelope, and then took from his pocket a second piece.
Jagged edges fitted into each other, and he lifted for the
inspection of hundreds of eyes, the long envelope marked and
underscored:-"LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF ROBERT LUKE DARRINGTON."
The lower edge of the paper was at one corner brown, scorched,
An elderly man of noble presence advanced, and Mr. Dunbar met and
shook hands with him, accompanying him almost to the stand. At sight
of his white head, and flowing silvery beard, Beryl's heart almost
ceased its pulsation. If, during her last illness her mother had
acquainted him with their family history, then indeed all was lost.
It was as impossible to reach him and implore his silence, as though
the ocean rocked between them; and how would he interpret the
pleading gaze she fixed upon his face? The imminence of the danger,
vanquished every scruple, strangled her pride. She caught Mr.
Dunbar's eye, beckoned him to approach.
When he stood before her, she put out her hand, seized one of his,
and drew him down until his black head almost touched hers. She
placed her lips close to his ear, and whispered:
"For God's sake spare the secrets of a death-bed. Be merciful to me
now; oh! I entreat you--do not drag my mother from her grave! Do not
question Doctor Grantlin."
She locked her icy hands around his, pressing it convulsively.
Turning, he laid his lips close to the silky fold of hair that had
fallen across her ear:
"If I dismiss this witness, will you tell me the truth? Will you
give me the name of the man whom I am hunting? Will you confess all
"I have no sins to confess. I have made my last statement. If you
laid my coffin at my feet, I should only say I am innocent; I would
tell you nothing more."
"Then his life is so precious, you are resolved to die, rather than
She dropped his hand, and leaned back in her chair, closing her
eyes. When she opened them, Doctor Grantlin was speaking:
"I am on my way to Havana, with an invalid daughter, and stopped
here last night, at the request of Mr. Dunbar."
"Please state all that you know of the prisoner, and of the
circumstances which induced her to visit X----."
"I first saw the prisoner in August last, when she summoned me to
see her mother, who was suffering from an attack of fever. I
discovered that she was in a dangerous condition in consequence of
an aneurism located in the carotid artery, and when she had been
relieved of malarial fever, I told both mother and daughter that an
operation was necessary, to remove the aneurism. Soon after, I left
the city for a month, and on my return the daughter again called me
in. I advised that without delay the patient should be removed to
the hospital, where a surgeon--a specialist--could perform the
operation. To this the young lady objected, on the ground that she
could not assist in nursing, if her mother entered the hospital; and
she would not consent to the separation. She asked what amount would
be required to secure at home the services of the surgeon, a trained
nurse, and the subsequent treatment; and I told her I thought a
hundred dollars would cover all incidentals, and secure one of the
most skilful surgeons in the city. I continued from time to time to
see the mother, and administered such medicines as I deemed
necessary to invigorate and tone up the patient's system for the
operation. One day in October, the young lady came to pay me for
some prescriptions, and asked if a few weeks' delay would enhance
the danger of the operation. I assured her it was important to lose
no time, and urged her to arrange matters so as to remove the
patient to the hospital as soon as possible, offering to procure her
admission. She showed great distress, and informed me that she hoped
to receive very soon a considerable sum of money, from some artistic
designs that she felt sure would secure the prize. A week later she
came again, and I gave her a prescription to allay her mother's
nervousness. Then, with much agitation, she told me that she was
going South by the night express, to seek assistance from her
mother's father, who was a man of wealth, but had disowned Mrs.
Brentano on account of her marriage. She asked for a written
statement of the patient's condition, and the absolute necessity of
the operation. I wrote it, and as she stood looking at the paper,
"'Doctor do you believe in an Ahnung?' I said, 'A what?' She
answered slowly and solemnly: 'An Ahnung--a presentiment? I have a
crushing presentiment that trouble will come to me, if I leave
mother; and yet she entreats, commands me to go South. It is my duty
to obey her, but the errand is so humiliating I shrink, I dread it.
I shall not be long away, and meanwhile do please be so kind as to
see her, and cheer her up. If her father refuses to give me the one
hundred dollars, I will take her to the hospital when I return.' I
walked to the door with her, and her last words were: 'Doctor, I
trust my mother to you; don't let her suffer.' I have never seen her
again, until I entered this room. I visited Mrs. Brentano several
times, but she grew worse very rapidly. One night the ensuing week,
my bell was rung at twelve o'clock, and a woman gave me this note,
which was written by the prisoner immediately after her arrest, and
which enclosed a second, addressed to her mother."
As he read aloud the concluding lines invoking the mother's prayers,
the doctor's voice trembled. He took off his spectacles, wiped them,
"I was shocked and distressed beyond expression, for I could no more
connect the idea of crime with that beautiful, noble souled girl,
than with my own sinless daughter; and I reproached myself then, and
doubly condemn myself now, that I did not lend her the money. All
that was possible to alleviate the suffering of that mother, I did
most faithfully. Under my personal superintendence she was made
comfortable in the hospital; and I stood by her side when Doctor--
operated on the aneurism; but her impaired constitution could not
bear the strain, and she sank rapidly. She was delirious, and never
knew why her daughter was detained; because I withheld the note.
Just before the end came, her mind cleared, and she wrote a few
lines which I sent to the prisoner. From all that I know of Miss
Brentano, I feel constrained to say, she impressed me as one of the
purest, noblest and most admirable characters I have ever met. She
supported her mother and herself by her pencil, and a more refined,
sensitive woman, a more tenderly devoted daughter I have yet to
"Does your acquaintance with the family suggest any third party, who
would be interested in Gen'l Darrington's will, or become a
beneficiary by its destruction?"
"No. They seemed very isolated people; those two women lived without
any acquaintances, as far as I know, and apared proudly indifferent
to the outside world. I do not think they had any relatives, and the
only name I heard Mrs. Brentano utter in her last illness was,
'Ignace,--Ignace.' She often spoke of her'darling,' and her 'good
"Did you see a gentleman who visited the prisoner? Did you ever hear
she had a lover?"
"I neither saw any gentleman, nor heard she had a lover. In January,
I received a letter from the prisoner enclosing an order on S--& E--,
photographers of New York, for the amount due her, on a certain
design for a Christmas card, which had received the Boston first
prize of three hundred dollars. With the permission of the Court, I
should like to read it. There is no objection?"
"PENITENTIARY CELL, JANUARY 8TH
"In the name of my dead, whom I shall soon join--I desire to thank
you, dear Doctor Grantlin, for your kind care of my darling; and
especially for your delicate and tender regard for all that remains
on earth of my precious mother. The knowledge that she was treated
with the reverence due to a lady, that she was buried--not as a
pauper, but sleeps her last sleep under the same marble roof that
shelters your dear departed ones, is the one ray of comfort that can
ever pierce the awful gloom that has settled like a pall over me. I
am to be tried soon for the black and horrible crime I never
committed; and the evidence is so strong against me, the
circumstances I cannot explain, are so accusing, the belief of my
guilt is so general in this community, that I have no hope of
acquittal; therefore I make my preparations for death. Please
collect the money for which I enclose an order, and out of it, take
the amount you spent when mother died. It will comfort me to know,
that we do not owe a stranger for the casket that shuts her away
from all grief, into the blessed Land of Peace. Keep the remainder,
and when you hear that I am dead, unjustly offered up an innocent
victim to appease justice, that must have somebody's blood in
expiation, then take my body and mother's and have us laid side by
side in the Potter's field. The law will crush my body, but it is
pure and free from every crime, and it will be worthy still to touch
my mother's in a common grave. Oh, Doctor! Does it not seem that
some terrible curse has pursued me; and that the three hundred
dollars I toiled and prayed for, was kept back ten days too late to
save me? My Christmas card will at least bury us decently--away from
the world that trampled me down. Do not doubt my innocence, and it
will comfort me to feel that he who closed my mother's eyes,
believes that her unfortunate child is guiltless and unstained. In
life, and in death, ever
"Most gratefully your debtor,
A few moments of profound silence ensued: then Doctor Grantlin
handed some article to Mr. Dunbar, and stepping down from the stand,
walked toward the prisoner.
She had covered her face with her hands, while he gave his
testimony: striving to hide the anguish that his presence revived.
He placed his hand on her shoulder, and whispered brokenly:
"My child, I know you are innocent. Would to God I could help you to
prove it to these people!"
The terrible strain gave way suddenly, her proud head was laid
against his arm, and suppressed emotion shook her, as a December
storm smites and bows some shivering weed.
Friday, the fifth and last day of the trial, was ushered in by a
tempest of wind and rain, that drove the blinding sheets of sleet
against the court-house windows with the insistence of an icy flail;
while now and then with spasmodic bursts of fury the gale
heightened, rattled the sash, moaned hysterically, like invisible
fiends tearing at the obstacles that barred entrance. So dense was
the gloom pervading the court-room, that every gas jet was burning
at ten o'clock, when Mr. Dunbar rose and took a position close to
the jury-box. The gray pallor of his sternly set face increased his
resemblance to a statue of the Julian type, and he looked rigid as
granite, as he turned his brilliant eyes full of blue fire upon the
grave, upturned countenances of the twelve umpires:
"Gentlemen of the Jury: The sanctity of human life is the foundation
on which society rests, and its preservation is the supreme aim of
all human legislation. Rights of property, of liberty, are merely
conditional, subordinated to the superlative divine right of life.
Labor creates property, law secures liberty, but God alone gives
life; and woe to that tribunal, to those consecrated priests of
divine justice, who, sworn to lay aside passion and prejudice, and
to array themselves in the immaculate robes of a juror's
impartiality, yet profane the loftiest prerogative with which
civilized society can invest mankind, and sacrilegiously extinguish,
in the name of justice, that sacred spark which only Jehovah's fiat
kindles. To the same astute and unchanging race, whose relentless
code of jurisprudence demanded 'an eye for an eye, a tooth for a
tooth, a life for a life,' we owe the instructive picture of
cautious inquiry, of tender solicitude for the inviolability of
human life, that glows in immortal lustre on the pages of the
'Mechilti' of the Talmud. In the trial of a Hebrew criminal, there
were 'Lactees,' consisting of two men, one of whom stood at the door
of the court, with a red flag in his hand, and the other sat on a
white horse at some distance on the road that led to execution. Each
of these men cried aloud continually, the name of the suspected
criminal, of the witnesses, and his crime; and vehemently called
upon any person who knew anything in his favor to come forward and
testify. Have we, supercilious braggarts of this age of progress,
attained the prudential wisdom of Sanhedrim?
"The State pays an officer to sift, probe, collect and array the
evidences of crime, with which the criminal is stoned to death; does
it likewise commission and compensate an equally painstaking, lynx-
eyed official whose sole duty is to hunt and proclaim proofs of the
innocence of the accused? The great body of the commonwealth is
committed in revengeful zeal to prosecution; upon whom devolves the
doubly sacred and imperative duty of defence? Are you not here to
give judgment in a cause based on an indictment by a secret
tribunal, where ex parte testimony was alone received, and the voice
of defence could not be heard? The law infers that the keen instinct
of self-preservation will force the accused to secure the strongest
possible legal defenders; and failing in this, the law perfunctorily
assigns counsel to present testimony in defence. Do the scales
"Imagine a race for heavy stakes; the judges tap the bell; three or
four superb thoroughbreds carefully trained on that track,
laboriously groomed, waiting for the signal, spring forward; and
when the first quarter is reached, a belated fifth, handicapped with
the knowledge that he has made a desperately bad start, bounds after
them. If by dint of some superhuman grace vouchsafed, some latent
strain, some most unexpected speed, he nears, overtakes, runs neck
and neck, slowly gains, passes all four and dashes breathless and
quivering under the string, a whole length ahead, the world of
spectators shouts the judges smile, and number five wins the stakes.
But was the race fair?
"Is not justice, the beloved goddess of our idolatry, sometimes so
blinded by clouds of argument, and confused by clamor that she fails
indeed to see the dip of the beam? If the accused be guilty and
escape conviction, he still lives; and while it is provided that no
one can be twice put in jeopardy of his life for the same offence,
vicious tendencies impel to renewal of crime, and Nemesis, the
retriever of justice, may yet hunt him down. If the accused be
innocent as the archangels, but suffer conviction and execution,
what expiation can justice offer for judicially slaughtering him?
Are the chances even?
"All along the dim vista of the annals of criminal jurisprudence,
stand grim memorials that mark the substitution of innocent victims
for guilty criminals; and they are solemn sign-posts of warning,
melancholy as the whitening bones of perished caravans in desert
sands. History relates, and tradition embalms, a sad incident of the
era of the Council of Ten, when an innocent boy was seized, tried
and executed for the murder of a nobleman, whose real assassin
confessed the crime many years subsequent. In commemoration of the
public horror manifested, when the truth was published, Venice
decreed that henceforth a crier should proclaim in the Tribunal just
before a death sentence was pronounced, 'Ricordatevi del povero
Marcolini! remember the poor Marcolini;' beware of merely
"To another instance I invite your attention. A devoted Scotch
father finding that his own child had contracted an unfortunate
attachment to a man of notoriously bad character, interdicted all
communication, and locked his daughter into a tenement room; the
adjoining apartment (with only a thin partition wall between) being
occupied by a neighbor, who overheard the angry altercation that
ensued. He recognized the voices of father and daughter, and the
words 'barbarity,' 'cruelty, 'death,' were repeatedly heard. The
father at last left the room, locking his child in as a prisoner.
After a time, strange noises were heard by the tenant of the
adjoining chamber; suspicion was aroused, a bailiff was summoned,
the door forced open, and there lay the dying girl weltering in
blood, with the fatal knife lying near. She was asked if her father
had caused her sad condition, and she made an affirmative gesture
and expired. At that moment the father returned, and stood stupefied
with horror, which was interpreted as a consciousness of guilt; and
this was corroborated by the fact that his shirt sleeve was
sprinkled with blood. In vain he asserted his innocence, and showed
that the blood stains were the result of a bandage having become
untied where he had bled himself a few days before. The words and
groans overheard, the blood, the affirmation of the dying woman,
every damning circumstance constrained the jury to convict him of
the murder. He was hung in chains, and his body left swinging from
the gibbet. The new tenant, who subsequently rented the room, was
ransacking the chamber in which the girl died, when, in a cavity of
the chimney where it had fallen unnoticed, was found a paper written
by this girl, declaring her intention to commit suicide, and closing
with the words: 'My inhuman father is the cause of my death'; thus
explaining her dying gestures. On examination of this document by
the friends and relatives of the girl, it was recognized and
identified as her handwriting; and it established the fact that the
father had died innocent of every crime, except that of trying to
save his child from a degrading marriage.
"Now, mark the prompt and satisfactory reparation decreed by
justice, and carried out by the officers of the law. The shrivelled,
dishonored body was lowered from the gibbet, given to his relatives
for decent burial, and the magistrates who sentenced him, ordered a
flag waved over his grave, as compensation for all his wrongs.
"Gentlemen of the jury, to save you from the commission of a wrong
even more cruel, I come to-day to set before you clearly the facts,
elicited from witnesses which the honorable and able counsel for the
prosecution declined to cross-examine. An able expounder of the law
of evidence has warned us that: 'The force of circumstantial
evidence being exclusive in its nature, and the mere coincidence of
the hypothesis with the circumstances, being, in the abstract,
insufficient, unless they exclude every other supposition, it is
essential to inquire, with the most scrupulous attention, what other
hypothesis there may be, agreeing wholly or partially with the facts
"A man of very marked appearance was seen running toward the
railroad, on the night of the twenty-sixth, evidently goaded by some
unusual necessity to leave the neighborhood of X--before the arrival
of the passenger express. It is proved that he passed the station
exactly at the time the prisoner deposed she heard the voice, and
the half of the envelope that enclosed the missing will, was found
at the spot where the same person was seen, only a few moments
later. Four days afterward, this man entered a small station in
Pennsylvania, paid for a railroad ticket, with a coin identical in
value and appearance with those stolen from the tin box, and as if
foreordained to publish the steps he was striving to efface,
accidentally left behind him the trumpet-tongued fragment of
envelope, that exactly fitted into the torn strip dropped at the
bridge. The most exhaustive and diligent search shows that stranger
was seen by no one else in X--; that he came as a thief in the
night, provided with chloroform to drug his intended victim, and
having been detected in the act of burglariously abstracting the
contents of the tin box, fought with, and killed the venerable old
man, whom he had robbed.
"Under cover of storm and darkness he escaped with his plunder, to
some point north of X--where doubtless he boarded (unperceived) the
freight train, and at some convenient point slipped into a wooded
country, and made his way to Pennsylvania. Why were valuable bonds
untouched? Because they might aid in betraying him. What conceivable
interest had he in the destruction of Gen'l Darrington's will? It is
in evidence, that the lamp was burning, and the contents of that
envelope could have possessed no value for a man ignorant of the
provisions of the will; and the superscription it was impossible to
misread. Suppose that this mysterious person was fully cognizant of
the family secrets of the Darringtons? Suppose that he knew that
Mrs. Brentano and her daughter would inherit a large fortune, if
Gen'l Darrington died intestate? If he had wooed and won the heart
of the daughter, and believed that her rights had been sacrificed to
promote the aggrandizement of an alien, the adopted step-son Prince,
had not such a man, the accepted lover of the daughter, a personal
interest in the provisions of a will which disinherited Mrs.
Brentano, and her child? Have you not now, motive, means, and
opportunity, and links of evidence that point to this man as the
real agent, the guilty author of the awful crime we are all leagued
in solemn, legal covenant to punish? Suppose that fully aware of the
prisoner's mission to X--, he had secretly followed her, and
supplemented her afternoon visit, by the fatal interview of the
night? Doubtless he had intended escorting her home, but when the
frightful tragedy was completed, the curse of Cain drove him, in
terror, to instant flight; and he sought safety in western wilds,
leaving his innocent and hapless betrothed to bear the penalty of
his crime. The handkerchief used to administer chloroform, bore her
initials; was doubtless a souvenir given in days gone by to that
unworthy miscreant, as a token of affection, by the trusting woman
he deserted in the hour of peril. In this solution of an awful
enigma, is there an undue strain upon credylity; is there any
antagonism of facts which the torn envelope, the pipe, the twenty-
dollar gold pieces in Pennsylvania, do not reconcile?
"A justly celebrated writer on the law of evidence has wisely said:
'In criminal cases, the statement made by the accused is of
essential importance in some points of view. Such is the complexity
of human affairs, and so infinite the combinations of circumstances,
that the true hypothesis which is capable of explaining and
reuniting all the apparently conflicting circumstances of the case,
may escape the acutest penetration: but the prisoner, so far as he
alone is concerned, can always afford a clue to them; and though he
may be unable to support his statement by evidence, his account of
the transaction is, for this purpose, always most material and
important. The effect may be to suggest a view, which consists with
the innocence of the accused, and might otherwise have escaped
"During the preliminary examination of this prisoner in October, she
inadvertently furnished this clue, when, in explaining her absence
from the station house, she stated that suddenly awakened from
sleep, 'she heard the voice of one she knew and loved, and ran out
to seek the speaker'. Twice she has repeated the conversation she
heard, and every word is corroborated by the witness who saw and
talked with the owner of that 'beloved voice'. When asked to give
the name of that man, whom she expected to find in the street, she
falters, refuses; love seals her lips, and the fact that she will
die sooner than yield that which must bring him to summary justice,
is alone sufficient to fix the guilt upon the real culprit.
"There is a rule in criminal jurisprudence, that 'presumptive
evidence ought never to be relied on, when direct testimony is
wilfully withheld'. She shudders at sight of the handkerchief; did
she not give it to him, in some happy hour as a tender Ricordo? When
the pipe which he lost in his precipitate flight is held up to the
jury, she recognizes it instantly as her lover's property, and
shivers with horror at the danger of his detection and apprehension.
Does not this array of accusing circumstances demand as careful
consideration, as the chain held up to your scrutiny by the
prosecution? In the latter, there is an important link missing,
which the theory of the defence supplies. When the prisoner was
arrested and searched, there was found in her possession only the
exact amount of money, which it is in evidence, that she came South
to obtain; and which she has solemnly affirmed was given to her by
Gen'l Darrington. We know from memoranda found in the rifled box,
that it contained only a few days previous, five hundred dollars in
gold. Three twenty-dollar gold coins were discovered on the carpet,
and one in the vault; what became of the remain ing three hundred
and twenty dollars? With the exception of one hundred dollars found
in the basket of the prisoner, she had only five copper pennies in
her purse, when so unexpectedly arrested, that it was impossible she
could have secreted anything. Three hundred and twenty dollars
disappeared in company with the will, and like the torn envelope,
two of those gold coins lifted their accusing faces in Pennsylvania,
where the fugitive from righteous retribution paid for the wings
that would transport him beyond risk of detection.
"Both theories presented for your careful analysis, are based
entirely upon circumstantial evidence; and is not the solution I
offer less repugnant to the canons of credibility, and infinitely
less revolting to every instinct of honor able manhood, than the
horrible hypothesis that a refined, cultivated, noble Christian
woman, a devoted daughter, irreproachable in antecedent life,
bearing the fiery ordeal of the past four months with a noble
heroism that commands the involuntary admiration of all who have
watched her--that such a perfect type of beautiful womanhood as the
prisoner presents, could deliberately plan and execute the vile
scheme of theft and murder? Gentlemen, she is guilty of but one sin
against the peace and order of this community: the sin of
withholding the name of one for whose bloody crime she is not
responsible. Does not her invincible loyalty, her unwavering
devotion to the craven for whom she suffers, in vest her with the
halo of a martyrdom, that appeals most powerfully to the noblest
impulses of your nature, that enlists the warmest, holiest
sympathies lying deep in your manly hearts? Analyze her statement;
every utterance bears the stamp of innocence; and where she cannot
explain truthfully, she declines to make any explanation. Hers is
the sin of silence, the grievous evasion of justice by non-
responsion, whereby the danger she will not avert by confession
recoils upon her innocent head. Bravely she took on her reluctant
shoulders the galling burden of parental command, and stifling her
proud repugnance, obediently came--a fair young stranger to 'Elm
Bluff.' Receiving as a loan the money she came to beg for, she
hurries away to fulfil another solemnly imposed injunction.
"Gentlemen, is there any spot out yonder in God's Acre, where
violets, blue as the eyes that once smiled upon you, now shed their
fragrance above the sacred dust of your dead darlings; and the
thought of which melts your hearts and dims your vision? Look at
this mournful, touching witness, which comes from that holy cemetery
to whisper to your souls, that the hands of the prisoner are as pure
as those of your idols, folded under the sod. Only a little bunch of
withered brown flowers, tied with a faded blue ribbon, that a poor
girl bought with her hard earned pennies, and carried to a sick
mother, to brighten a dreary attic; only a dead nosegay, which that
mother requested should be laid as a penitential tribute on the tomb
of the mother whom she had disobeyed; and this faithful young heart
made the pilgrimage, and left the offering--and in consequence
thereof, missed the train that would have carried her safely back
to her mother--and to peace. On the morning after the preliminary
examination I went to the cemetery, and found the fatal flowers just
where she had placed them, on the great marble cross that covers the
tomb of 'Helena Tracey--wife of Luke Darringtun.'
"You husbands and fathers who trust your names, your honor, the
peace of your hearts-almost the salvation of your souls--to the
women you love: staking the dearest interest of humanity, the
sanctity of that heaven on earth--your stainless homes--upon the
fidelity of womanhood, can you doubt for one instant, that the
prisoner will accept death rather than betray the man she loves? No
human plummet has sounded the depths of a woman's devotion; no
surveyor's chain will ever mark the limits of a woman's faithful,
patient endurance; and only the wings of an archangel can transcend
that pinnacle to which the sublime principle of self-sacrifice
exalts a woman's soul.
"In a quaint old city on the banks of the Pegnitz, history records
an instance of feminine self-abnegation, more enduring than
monuments of brass. The law had decreed a certain provision for the
maintenance of orphans; and two women in dire distress, seeing no
possible avenue of help, accused themselves falsely of a capital
crime, and were executed; thereby securing a support for the
children they orphaned.
"As a tireless and vigilant prosecutor of the real criminal, the
Cain-branded man now wandering in some western wild, I charge the
prisoner with only one sin, suicidal silence; and I commend her to
your must tender compassion, believing that in every detail and
minutiae she has spoken the truth; and that she is as innocent of
the charge in the indictment as you or I. Remember that you have
only presumptive proof to guide you in this solemn deliberation, and
in the absence of direct proof, do not be deluded by a glittering
sophistry, which will soon attempt to persuade you, that: 'A
presumption which necessarily arises from circumstances,--is very
often more convincing and more satisfactory than any other kind of
evidence; it is not within the reach and compass of human abilities
to invent a train of circumstances, which shall be so connected
together as to amount to a proof of guilt, without affording
opportunities of contradicting a great part, if not all, of these
"Believe it not; circumstantial evidence has caused as much innocent
blood to flow, as the cimeter of Jenghiz Khan. The counsel for the
prosecution will tell you that every fact in this melancholy case
stabs the prisoner, and that facts cannot lie. Abstractly and
logically considered, facts certainly do not lie; but let us see
whether the inferences deduced from what we believe to be facts, do
not sometimes eclipse Ananias and Sapphira! Not long ago, the public
heart thrilled with horror at the tidings of the Ashtabula railway
catastrophe, in which a train of cars plunged through a bridge, took
fire, and a number of passengers were consumed, charred beyond
recognition. Soon afterward, a poor woman, mother of two children,
commenced suit against the railway company, alleging that her
husband had perished in that disaster. The evidence adduced was only
of a circumstantial nature, as the body which had been destroyed by
flames, could not be found. Searching in the debris at the fatal
spot, she had found a bunch of keys, that she positively recognized
as belonging to her husband, and in his possession when he died. One
key fitted the clock in her house, and a mechanic was ready to swear
that he had made such a key for the deceased. Another key fitted a
chest she owned, and still another fitted the door of her house;
while strongest of all proof, she found a piece of cloth which she
identified as part of her husband's coat. A physician who knew her
husband, testified that he rode as far as Buffalo on the same train
with the deceased, on the fatal day of the disaster; and another
witness deposed that he saw the deceased take the train at Buffalo,
that went down to ruin at Ashtabula. Certainly the chain of
circumstantial evidence, from veracious facts, seemed complete; but
lo! during the investigation it was ascertained beyond doubt, to the
great joy of the wife, that the husband had never been near
Ashtabula, and was safe and well at a Pension Home in a Western
"The fate of a very noble and innocent woman is now committed to
your hands, and only presumptive proof is laid before you. 'The
circumstance is always a fact; the presumption is the inference
drawn from that fact. It is hence called presumptive proof, because
it proceeds merely in opinion.' Suffer no brilliant sophistry to
dazzle your judgment, no remnant of prejudice to swerve you from the
path of fidelity to your oath. To your calm reasoning, your generous
manly hearts, your Christian consciences, I resign the desolate
prisoner; and as you deal with her, so may the God above us, the
just and holy God who has numbered the hairs of her innocent head,
deal here and hereafter with you and yours."
That magnetic influence, whereby the emotions of an audience are
swayed, as the tides that follow the moon, was in large measure the
heritage of the handsome man who held the eyes of the jurymen in an
almost unwinking gaze; and when his uplifted arm slowly fell to his
side, Judge Dent grasped it in mute congratulation, and Mr.
Churchill took his hand, and shook it warmly.
Mr. Wolverton came forward to sum up the evidence for the
prosecution, and laboriously recapitulated and dwelt upon the mass
of facts which he claimed was susceptible of but one interpretation,
and must compel the jury to convict, in accordance with the
Upon the ears of the prisoner, his words fell as a harsh,
meaningless murmur; and above the insistent mutter, rose and fell
the waves of a rich, resonant voice, that surrounded, penetrated,
electrified her brain; thrilled her whole being with a strange and
inexplicable sensation of happiness. For months she had fought
against the singular fascination that dwelt in those brilliant blue
eyes, and lurked in every line of the swart, stern face; holding at
bay the magnetic attraction which he exerted from the hour of the
preliminary examination. Of all men. she had feared him most, had
shrunk from every opportunity of contact, had execrated him as the
malign personification, the veritable incarnation of the evil
destiny that had hounded her from the day she first saw X----.
Listening to his appeal for her deliverance, each word throbbing
with the fervent beat of a heart that she knew was all her own, an
exquisite sense of rest gradually stole over her; as a long-
suffering child spent with pain, sinks, soothed at last in the
enfolding arms of protective love. That dark, eloquent face drew,
held her gaze with the spell of a loadstone, and even in the
imminence of her jeopardy, she recalled the strange resemblance he
bore to the militant angel she had once seen in a painting, where he
wrestled with Satan for possession of the body of Moses. Disgrace,
peril, the gaunt spectre of death suddenly dissolved, vanished in
the glorious burst of rosy light that streamed into all the chill
chambers of her heart; and she bowed her head in her hands, to hide
the crimson that painted her cheeks.
How long Mr. Wolverton talked, she never knew; but the lull that
succeeded was broken by the tones of Judge Parkman.
"Beryl Brentano, it is my duty to remind you that this is the last
opportunity the law allows you, to speak in your own vindication.
The testimony has all been presented to those appointed to decide
upon its value. If there be any final statement that you may desire
to offer in self-defence, you must make it now."
Could the hundreds who watched and waited ever forget the sight of
that superb, erect figure, that exquisite face, proud as Hypatia's,
patient as Perpetua's; or the sound of that pathetic, unwavering
voice? Mournfully, yet steadily, she raised her great grey eyes,
darkened by the violet shadows suffering had cast, and looked at her
"I am guiltless of any and all crime. I have neither robbed, nor
murdered; and I am neither principal, nor accomplice in the horrible
sin imputed to me. I know nothing of the chloroform; I never touched
the andiron; I never saw Gen'l Darrington but once. He gave me the
gold and the sapphires, and I am as innocent of his death, and of
the destruction of his will as the sinless little children who
prattle at your firesides and nestle to sleep in your arms. My life
has been disgraced and ruined by no act of mine, for I have kept my
hands, my heart, my soul, as pure and free from crime as they were
when God gave them to me. I am the helpless prey of suspicion, and
the guiltless victim of the law. O, my judges! I do not crave your
mercy--that is the despairing prayer of conscious guilt; I demand at
your hands, justice."
The rushing sound as of a coming flood filled her ears, and her
words echoed vaguely from some immeasurably distant height. The
gaslights seemed whirling in a Walpurgis maze, as she sat down and
once more veiled her face in her hands.
When she recovered sufficiently to listen, Mr. Churchill had risen
for the closing speech of the prosecution.
"Gentlemen of the Jury: I were a blot upon a noble profession, a
disgrace to honorable manhood, and a monster in my own estimation,
if I could approach the fatal Finis of this melancholy trial,
without painful emotions of profound regret, that the solemn
responsibility of my official position makes me the reluctant bearer
of the last stern message uttered by retributive justice. How
infinitely more enviable the duty of the Amicus Curiae, my gallant
friend and quondam colleague, who in voluntary defence has so
ingeniously, eloquently and nobly led a forlorn hope, that he knew
was already irretrievably lost? Desperate, indeed, must he deem that
cause for which he battles so valiantly, when dire extremity goads
him to lift a rebellious and unfilial voice against the provisions
of his foster-mother, Criminal Jurisprudence, in whose service he
won the brilliant distinction and crown of laurel that excite the
admiration and envy of a large family of his less fortunate foster-
brothers. I honor his heroism, applaud his chivalrous zeal, and wish
that I stood in his place; but not mine the privilege of mounting
the white horse, and waving the red flag of the 'Lactees.' Dedicated
to the mournful rites of justice, I have laid an iron hand on the
quivering lips of pity, that cried to me like the voice of one of my
own little ones; and very sorrowfully, at the command of conscience,
reason and my official duty, I obey the mandate to ring down the
black curtain on a terrible tragedy, feeling like Dante, when he
confronted the doomed--
"'And to a part I come, where no light shines.'"
So clearly and ably has my distinguished associate, Mr. Wolverton,
presented all the legal points bearing upon the nature and value of
the proof, submitted for your examination, that any attempt to
buttress his powerful argument, were an unpardonable reflection upon
your intelligence, and his skill; and I shall confine my last effort
in behalf of justice, to a brief analysis and comparison of the
hypothesis of the defence, with the verified result of the
"Beautiful and sparkling as the frail glass of Murano, and equally
as thin, as treacherously brittle, is the theory so skilfully
manufactured in behalf of the accused; and so adroitly exhibited
that the ingenious facets catch every possible gleam, and for a
moment almost dazzle the eyes of the beholder. In attempting to cast
a lance against the shield of circumstantial evidence, his weapon
rebounded, recoiled upon his fine spun crystal and shivered it. What
were the materials wherewith he worked? Circumstances, strained,
well nigh dislocated by the effort to force them to fit into his
Procrustean measure. A man was seen on the night of the twenty-
sixth, who appeared unduly anxious to quit X--before daylight; and
again the mysterious stranger was seen in a distant town in
Pennsylvania, where he showed some gold coins of a certain
denomination, and dropped on the floor one-half of an envelope, that
once contained a will. In view of these circumstances (the
prosecution calls them facts), the counsel for the defence PRESUMES
that said stranger committed the murder, stole the will; and offers
this opinion as presumptive proof that the prisoner is innocent. The
argument runs thus: this man was an accepted lover of the accused,
and therefore he must have destroyed the will that beggared his
betrothed; but it is nowhere in evidence, that any lover existed,
outside of the counsel's imagination; yet Asmodeus like he must
appear when called for, and so we are expected to infer, assume,
presume that because he stole the will he must be her lover. Does it
not make your head swim to spin round in this circle of reasoning?
In assailing the validity of circumstantial evidence, has he not cut
his bridges, burned his ships behind him?
"Gentlemen, fain would I seize this theory were it credible, and
setting thereon, as in an ark, this most unfortunate prisoner, float
her safely through the deluge of ruin, anchor her in peaceful
security upon some far-off Ararat; but it has gone to pieces in the
hands of its architect. Instead of rescuing the drowning, the wreck
serves only to beat her down. If we accept the hypothesis of a lover
at all, it will furnish the one missing link in the terrible chain
that clanks around the luckless prisoner. The disappearance of the
three hundred and twenty dollars has sorely perplexed the
prosecution, and unexpectedly the defence offers us the one
circumstance we lacked; the lover was lurking in the neighborhood,
to learn the result of the visit, to escort her home; and to him the
prisoner gave the missing gold, to him intrusted the destruction of
the will. If that man came to 'Elm Bluff' prepared to rob and
murder, by whom was he incited and instigated; and who was the
accessory, and therefore particeps criminis? The prisoner's
handkerchief was the medium of chloroforming that venerable old man,
and can there be a reasonable doubt that she aided in administering
"The prosecution could not explain why she came from the direction
of the railroad bridge, which was far out of her way from 'Elm
Bluff'; but the defence gives the most satisfactory solution: she
was there, dividing her blood-stained spoils with the equally guilty
accomplice--her lover. The prosecution brings to the bar of
retribution only one criminal; the defence not only fastens the
guilt upon this unhappy woman, by supplying the missing links, but
proves premeditation, by the person of an accomplice. Four months
have been spent in hunting some fact that would tend to exculpate
the accused, but each circumstance dragged to light serves only to
swell the dismal chorus, 'Woe to the guilty'. To-day she sits in the
ashes of desolation, condemned by the unanimous evidence of every
known fact connecred with this awful tragedy. To oppose this black
and frightful host of proofs, what does she offer us? Simply her
bare, solemnly reiterated denial of guilt. We hold our breath,
hoping against hope that she will give some explanation, some
solution, that our pitying hearts are waiting so eagerly to hear;
but dumb as the Sphinx, she awaits her doom. You will weigh that
bare denial in the scale with the evidence, and in this momentous
duty recollect the cautious admonition that has been furnished to
guide you: 'Cosceding that asseverations of innocence are always
deserving of consideration by the executive, what is there to invest
them with a conclusive efficacy, in opposition to a chain of
presumptive evidence, the force and weight of which falls short only
of mathematical demonstration?' The astute and eloquent counsel for
defence, has cited some well-known cases, to shake your faith in the
value of merely presumptive proof.
"I offer for your consideration, an instance of the fallibility of
merely bare, unsupported denial of guilt on the part of the accused.
A priest at Lauterbach was suspected, arrested and tried for the
murder of a woman, under very aggravated circumstances. He was
subjected to eighty examinations; and each time solemnly denied the
crime. Even when confronted at midnight with the skull of the victim
murdered eight years before, he vehemently protested his innocence;
called on the skull to declare him not the assassin, and appealed to
the Holy Trinity to proclaim his innocence. Finally he confessed his
crime; testified that while cutting the throat of his victim, he had
exhorted her to repentance, had given her absolution, and that
having concealed the corpse, he had said masses for her soul.
"The forlorn and hopeless condition of the prisoner at this bar,
appeals pathetically to that compassion which we are taught to
believe coexists with justice, even in the omnipotent God we
worship; yet in the face of incontrovertible facts elicited from
reliable witnesses, of coincidences which no theory of accident can
explain, can we stifle convictions, solely because she pleads 'not
guilty'? Pertinent, indeed, was the ringing cry of that ancient
prosecutor: 'Most illustrious Caesar! if denial of guilt be
sufficient defence, who would ever be convicted?' You have been
assured that inferences drawn from probable facts eclipse the
stupendous falsehood of Ananias and Sapphira! Then the same family
strain inevitably crops out, in the loosely-woven web of defensive
presumptive evidence--whose pedigree we trace to the same parentage.
God forbid that I should commit the sacrilege of arrogating His
divine attribute--infallibility--for any human authority, however
exalted; or claim it for any amount of proof, presumptive or
positive. 'It is because humanity even when most cautious and
discriminating is so mournfully fallible and prone to error, that in
judging its own frailty, we require the aid and reverently invoke
the guidance of Jehovah.' In your solemn deliberations bear in mind
this epitome of an opinion, entitled to more than a passing
consideration: 'Perhaps strong circumstantial evidence in cases of
crime, committed for the most part in secret, is the most
satisfactory of any from whence to draw the conclusion of guilt; for
men may be seduced to perjury, by many base motives; but it can
scarcely happen that many circumstances, especially if they be such
over which the accuser could have no control, forming altogether the
links of a transaction, should all unfortunately concur to fix the
presumption of guilt on an individual, and yet such a conclusion be
"Gentlemen of the jury: the prosecution believes that the
overwhelming mass of evidence laid before you proves, beyond a
reasonable doubt, that the prisoner did premeditatedly murder and
rob Robert Luke Darrington; and in the name of justice, we demand
that you vindicate the majesty of outraged law, by rendering a
verdict of 'guilty'. All the evidence in this case points the finger
of doom at the prisoner, as to the time, the place, the opportunity,
the means, the conduct and the motive. Suffer not sympathy for
youthful womanhood and wonderful beauty, to make you recreant to the
obligations of your oath, to decide this issue of life or death,
strictly in accordance with the proofs presented; and bitterly
painful as is your impending duty, do not allow the wail of pity to
drown the demands of justice, or the voice of that blood that cries
to heaven for vengeance upon the murderess. May the righteous God
who rules the destinies of the universe guide you, and enable you to
perform faithfully your awful duty."
Painfully solemn was the profound silence that pervaded the court-
room, and the eyes of the multitude turned anxiously to the grave
countenance of the Judge. Mr. Dunbar had seated himself at a small
table, not far from Beryl, and resting his elbow upon it, leaned his
right temple in the palm of his hand, watching from beneath his
contracted black brows the earnest, expectant faces of the jurymen;
and his keen, glowing eyes indexed little of the fierce, wolfish
pangs that gnawed ceaselessly at his heart, as the intolerable
suspense drew near its end.
Judge Parkman leaned forward.
"Gentlemen of the jury: before entering that box, as the appointed
ministers of justice, to arbitrate upon the most momentous issue
that can engage human attention--the life or death of a fellow
creature--you called your Maker to witness that you would divest
your minds of every shadow of prejudice, would calmly, carefully,
dispassionately consider, analyze and weigh the evidence submitted
for your investigation; and irrespective of consequences, render a
verdict in strict accordance with the proofs presented. You have
listened to the testimony of the witnesses, to the theory of the
prosecution, to the theory of the counsel for the defence; you have
heard the statement of the accused, her repeated denial of the crime
with which she stands charged; and finally you have heard the
arguments of counsel, the summing up of all the evidence. The
peculiar character of some of the facts presented as proof, requires
on your part the keenest and most exhaustive analysis of the
inferences to be drawn from them, and you 'have need of patience,
wisdom and courage'. While it is impossible that you can contemplate
the distressing condition of the accused without emotions of
profound compassion, your duty 'is prescribed by the law, which
allows you no liberty to indulge any sentiment, inconsistent with
its strict performance'. You should begin with the legal presumption
that the prisoner is innocent, and that presumption must continue,
until her guilt is satisfactorily proved. This is the legal right of
the prisoner; contingent on no peculiar circumstances of any
particular case, but is the common right of every person accused of
a crime. The law surrounds the prisoner with a coat of mail, that
only irrefragable proofs of guilt can pierce, and the law declares
her innocent, unless the proof you have heard on her trial satisfies
you, beyond a reasonable doubt, that she is guilty. What constitutes
reasonable doubt, it becomes your duty to earnestly and carefully
consider. It is charged that the defendant, on the night of the
twenty-sixth of October, did wilfully, deliberately, and
premeditatedly murder Robert Luke Darrington, by striking him with a
brass andiron. The legal definition of murder is the unlawful
killing of another, with malice aforethought; and is divided into
two degrees. Any murder committed knowingly, intentionally and
wantonly, and without just cause or excuse, is murder in the first
degree; and this is the offence charged against the prisoner at the
bar. If you believe from the evidence, that the defendant, Beryl
Brentano, did at the time and place named, wilfully and
premeditatedly kill Robert Luke Darrington, then it will become your
duty to find the defendant guilty of murder; if you do not so
believe, then it will be your duty to acquit her. A copy of the
legal definition of homicide, embracing murder in the first and
second degrees, and of manslaughter in the first and second degrees,
will be furnished for your instruction; and it is your right and
privilege after a careful examination of all the evidence, to
convict of a lesser crime than that charged in the indictment,
provided all the evidence in this case, should so convince your
minds, to the exclusion of a reasonable doubt.
"In your deliberations you will constantly bear in memory, the
following long established rules provided for the guidance of
"'I.--The burden of proof rests upon the prosecution, and does not
shift or change to the defendant in any phase or stage of the case.
"'II.--Before the jury can convict the accused, they must be
satisfied from the evidence that she is guilty of the offence
charged in the indictment, beyond a reasonable doubt. It is not
sufficient that they should believe her guilt only probable. No
degree of probability merely, will authorize a conviction; but the
evidence must be of such character and tendency as to produce a
moral certainty of the prisoner's guilt, to the exclusion of
"'III.--Each fact which is necessary in the chain of circumstances
to establish the guilt of the accused, must be distinctly proved by
competent legal evidence, and if the jury have reasonable doubt as
to any material fact, necessary to be proved in order to support the
hypothesis of the prisoner's guilt, to the exclusion of every other
reasonable hypothesis, they must find her not guilty.
"'IV.--If the jury are satisfied from the evidence, that the accused
is guilty of the offence charged, beyond reasonable doubt, and no
rational hypothesis or explanation can be framed or given (upon the
whole evidence in the cause) consistent with the innocence of the
accused, and at the same time consistent with the facts proved, they
ought to find her guilty. The jury are the exclusive judges of the
evidence, of its weight, and of the credibility of the witnesses. It
is their duty to accept and be governed by the law, as given by the
Court in its instructions.'
"The evidence in this case is not direct and positive, but
presumptive; and your attention has been called to some well known
cases of persons convicted of, and executed for capital crimes,
whose entire innocence was subsequently made apparent. These
arguments and cases only prove that, 'all human evidence, whether it
be positive or presumptive in its character, like everything else
that partakes of mortality, is fallible. The reason may be as
completely convinced by circumstantial--as by positive evidence, and
yet may possibly not arrive at the truth by either.'
"The true question, therefore, for your consideration, is not the
kind of evidence in this case, but it is, what is the result of it
in your minds? If it has failed to satisfy you of the guilt of the
accused, and your minds are not convinced, vacillate in doubt, then
you must acquit her, be the evidence what it may, positive or
presumptive; but if the result of the whole evidence satisfies you,
it you are convinced that she is guilty, then it is imperatively
your duty to convict her, even if the character of the evidence be
wholly circumstantial." Such is the law.
"In resigning this case to you, I deem it my duty to direct your
attention to one point, which I suggest that you consider. If the
accused administered chloroform, did it indicate that her original
intention was solely to rob the vault? Is the act of administering
the chloroform consistent with the theory of deliberate and
premeditated murder? In examining the facts submitted by counsel,
take the suggestion just presented, with you, and if the facts and
circumstances proved against her, can be accounted for on the theory
of intended, deliberate robbery, without necessarily involving
premeditated murder, it is your privilege to put that merciful
construction upon them.
"Gentlemen of the jury, I commit this mournful and terrible case to
your decision; and solemnly adjure you to be governed in your
deliberations, by the evidence as you understand it, by the law as
furnished in these instructions, and to render such verdict, as your
reason compels, as your matured judgment demands, and your
conscience unhesitatingly approves and sanctions. May God direct and
control your decision."
Drifting along the stream of testimony that rolled in front of the
jury-box, an eager and excited public had with scarcely a dissenting
voice arrived at the conclusion, that the verdict was narrowed to
the limits of only two possibilities. It was confidently expected
that the jury would either acquit unconditionally, or fail to agree;
thus prolonging suspense, by a mistrial. It was six o'clock when,
the jurors, bearing the andiron, handkerchief, pipe, and a diagram
of the bedroom at "Elm Bluff", were led away to their final
deliberation; yet so well assured was the mass of spectators, that
they would promptly return to render a favorable verdict, that
despite the inclemency of the weather, there was no perceptible
diminution of the anxious crowd of men and women.
The night had settled prematurely down, black and stormy; and though
the fury of the gale seemed at one time to have spent itself, the
wind veered to the implacable east, and instead of fitful gusts, a
steady roaring blast freighted with rain smote the darkness. The
officer conducted his prisoner across the dim corridor, and opened
the door of the small anteroom, which frequent occupancy had
rendered gloomily familiar.
"I wish I could make you more comfortable, and it is a shame to shut
you up in such an ice-box. I will throw my overcoat on the floor,
and you can wrap your feet up in it. Yes, you must take it. I shall
keep warm at the stove in the Sheriff's room. The Judge will not
wait later than ten o'clock, then I'll take you back to Mrs.
Singleton. It seems you prefer to remain here alone."
"Yes, entirely alone."
"You are positive, you won't try a little hot punch, or a glass of
"Thank you, but I wish only to be alone."
"Don't be too down-hearted. You will never be convicted under that
indictment, at least not by this jury, for I have a suspicion that
there is one man among them, who will stand out until the stars
fall, and I will tell you why. I happened to be looking at him, when
your Christmas card was shown by Mr. Dunbar. The moment he saw it,
he started, stretched out his hand, and as he looked at it, I saw
him choke up, and pass his hand over his eyes. Soon after Christmas,
that man lost his only child, a girl five years old, who had scarlet
fever. To divert her mind, they gave her a Christmas card to play
with, that some friend had sent to her mother. She had it in her
hand when she died, in convulsions, and it was put in her coffin and
buried with her. My wife helped to nurse and shroud her, and she
told me it was the card shown in court; it was your card. The law
can't cut out the heartstrings of the jury, and I don't believe that
man would lift his hand against your life, any sooner than he would
strike the face of his dead child."
He locked the door, and Beryl found herself at last alone, in the
dreary little den where a single gas burner served only to show the
surrounding cheerlessness. The furniture comprised a wooden bench
along the wall, two chairs, and a table in the middle of the floor;
and on the dusty panes of the grated window, a ray of ruddy light
from a lamp post in the street beneath, broke through the leaden
lances of the rain, and struggled for admission.
The neurotic pharmacopoeia contains nothing so potent as despair to
steady quivering nerves, and steel to superhuman endurance. For
Beryl, the pendulum of suspense had ceased to swing, because the
spring of hope had snapped; and the complete surrender, the mute
acceptance of the worst possible to come, had left her numb,
impervious to dread. As one by one the discovered facts spelled
unmistakably the name of her brother, allowing no margin to doubt
his guilt, the necessity of atonement absorbed every other
consideration; and the desire to avert his punishment extinguished
the last remnant of selfish anxiety. If by suffering in his stead,
she could secure to him life--the opportunities of repentance, of
expiation, of making his peace with God, of saving his immortal
soul--how insignificant seemed all else. The innate love of life,
the natural yearning for happiness, the once fervent aspirations for
fame--the indescribable longing for the fruition of youth's high
hopes, which like a Siren sang somewhere in the golden mists of
futurity--all these were now crushed beyond recognition in the
whirlwind that had wrecked her.
Her father slept under silvery olives in a Tuscan dell, her mother
within hearing of the waves that broke on the Atlantic shore; and if
the wanderer could be purified by penitential tears, what mattered
the shattering of the family circle on earth, when in the eternal
Beyond, it would be indissolubly reformed? Over the black gulf that
yawned in her young, pure life, the wings of her Christian faith
bore her steadily, unwaveringly to the heavenly rest, that she knew
remained for the people of God; and so, she seemed to have shaken
hands with the things of time and earth, and to stand on the border
land, girded for departure. To meet her beloved dead, with the
blessed announcement that Bertie must join them after a while,
because she had ransomed his precious soul; and that the family
would be complete under the heavenly roof, was recompense so rich,
that the fangs of disgrace, of physical and mental torture were
effectually extracted. By day and by night the ladder of prayer
lifted her soul into that serene realm, where the fountains of balm
are never drained; and into her face stole the reflection of that
peace which only communion with the Christian's God can bring to
those whom grief has claimed for its own.
To-night, as she listened to the Coronach chanted by the gale, and
the dismal accompaniment of the pelting rain, she realized how
utterly isolated was her position, and kneeling on the bare floor,
crossed her arms on the table, bowed her bead upon them, and prayed
for patience and strength. The ordeal had been fiery, but the end
was at hand, and release must be near.
She heard quick steps in the corridor, and the key was turned in the
lock. Had the jury so promptly decided to destroy her? For an
instant only, she shut her eyes; and when she opened them, Mr.
Dunbar was leaning over her, folding closely about her shoulders
some heavy wrap, whose soft fur collar his fingers buttoned around
her throat. She had not known that she was cold, until the delicious
sensation of warmth crept like a caressing touch over her chilled
limbs. She did not stir, and neither spoke; but after a moment he
turned toward the door; then she rose.
"There is something I wish to say, and this is my last opportunity,
as after to-night we shall not meet again. During the past four
months I have said harsh, bitter things to you, and have unjustly
judged you. In grateful recognition of all that you have so
faithfully essayed to accomplish in my behalf, I ask you now to
forget everything but my gratitude for your effort to save me; and I
offer my hand to you, as the one friend who sacrificed even his
manly pride, and endured humiliation in order to redress my wrongs.
I thank you very sincerely, Mr. Dunbar."
He took her outstretched hand, pressed it against his cheek, his
eyes, held it to his lips; then a half smothered groan escaped him,
and afraid to trust himself, he went quickly out.
Believing that she stood on the confines of another world, she had
possessed her soul in patience, waiting for the consummation of the
sacrifice; yet at the crisis of her fate, that singular,
incomprehensible influence, long resisted, drew her thoughts to him,
whom she regarded as the chosen puppet of destiny to hurry her into
an untimely grave. She had fought the battle with him, under fearful
odds; conscious of sedition in the heart that defied him, warily
clutching with one hand the throat of rebellion in her citadel,
while with the other, she parried assault.
Keeping lonely vigil, amid the strewn wreck of life and hope, she
had waved away one persistent thought, that lit up the blackness
with a sudden glory, that came with the face of an angel of light,
and babbled with the silvery tongue of sorcery. As far as her future
was concerned, this world had practically come to a premature end;
but above the roar of ruin, and out of the yawning graves of
slaughtered possibilities, rose and rang the challenge: If she had
never come South, if she could have been allowed the chance of
happiness that seemed every woman's birthright, if she had met and
known Mr. Dunbar, before he was pledged to another; what then? If
she were once more the Beryl of old, and he were free? If? What
necromancy so wonderful, as the potentiality of if? Weighed in that
popular balance--appearances--how stood the poor friendless
prisoner, loaded with suspicion, tarnished with obloquy, on the
verge of an ignominious death; in comparison with the fair, proud
heiress, dowered with blue blood, powerful in patrician influence,
rich in all that made her the envy of her social world?
In the dazzling zenith of temporal prosperity, Leo Gordon considered
the heart of her betrothed her most precious possession; the one
jewel which she would gladly have given all else to preserve; and
yet, fate tore it from her grasp, and laid it at the feet, nay
thrust it into the white hand of the woman who must die for a
fiendish crime. A latter-day seer tells us, that in all realms,
"Between laws there is no analogy, there is Continuity"; then in the
universe of ethical sociology, who shall trace the illimitable
ramifications of the Law of Compensation?
Up and down, back and forth, slowly, wearily walked the prisoner;
and when the town clock struck eight, she mechanically counted each
stroke. As in drowning men, the landmarks of a lifetime rise,
huddle, almost press upon the glazing eyes, so the phantasmagoria of
Beryl's past, seemed projected in strange luminousness upon the pall
of the present, like profiles in silvery flame cast on a black
Holding her father's hand, she walked in the Odenwald; sitting
beside her mother on a carpet of purple vetches, she stemmed
strawberries in a garden near Pistoja; clinging to Bertie's jacket,
she followed him across dimpling sands to dip her feet in the blue
Mediterranean waves, that broke in laughter, showing teeth of foam,
where dying sunsets reddened all the beach. Through sunny arcades,
flushed with pomegranate, glowing with orange, silvered with lemon
blossoms, came the tinkling music of contadini bells, the bleating
of kids, the twittering of happy birds, the distant chime of an
Angelus; all the subtle harmony, the fragmentary melody that
flickers through an Impromptu of Chopin or Schubert. She saw the
simulacrum of her former self, the proud, happy Beryl of old,
singing from the score of the "Messiah", in the organ loft of a
marble church; she heard the rich tenor voice of her handsome
brother, as he trilled a barcarole one night, crossing the Atlantic;
she smelled the tuberoses at Mentone, the faint breath of lilies her
father had loved so well, and then, blotting all else, there rose
clear as some line of Morghen's, that attic room; the invalid's bed,
the low chair beside it, the wasted figure, the suffering, fever-
flushed face of the beloved mother, as she saw her last, with the
Grand Duke jasmine fastened at her throat.
The door was thrown open, and the officer beckoned her to follow
him. Back into the crowded court-room, where people pressed even
into the window sills for standing room, where Judge and counsel sat
gravely expectant; where the stillness of death had suddenly fallen.
The officer conducted her to the bar, then drew back, and Mr. Dunbar
came and stood at her side; resting his hand on the back of her
In that solemn hush, the measured tramp of the jury advancing, and
filing into their box, had the mournful, measured beat as of pall
bearers, keeping step to a dismal dirge; and when the foreman laid
upon the table the fatal brass unicorn, the muffled sound seemed
ominous as the grating of a coffin lowered upon the cross bars of a
gaping grave. As the roll was called, each man rose, and answered in
a low but distinct tone. Then the clerk of the court asked:
"Gentlemen of the jury, have you agreed upon your verdict?"
"We have," replied the foreman.
"What say you! Guilty, or not guilty?"
Beryl had risen, and the gaslight shining full upon her pale,
Phidian face, showed no trace of trepidation. Only the pathetic
patience of a sublime surrender was visible on her frozen features.
The eyes preternaturally large and luminous were raised far above
the sea of heads, and their strained gaze might almost have been
fixed upon the unveiled face of the God she trusted. Her hands were
folded over her mother's ring, her noble head thrown proudly back.
"We the jury, in the case of the State against Beryl Brentano, find
defendant not guilty as charged in the indictment; but guilty of
manslaughter in the first degree; and we do earnestly commend her to
the mercy of the Court."
The girl staggered slightly, as if recoiling from a blow, and Mr.
Dunbar caught her arm, steadied her. The long pent tide of popular
feeling broke its barriers, and the gates of Pandemonium seemed to
swing open. Women sobbed; men groaned. In vain the Judge thundered
"Silence", "Order!" and not until an officer advanced to obey the
command, to clear the court-room, was there any perceptible lull, in
the storm of indignation.
Turning to the Judge, Mr. Dunbar said:
"In behalf of the prisoner, I most respectfully beg that the Court
will end her suspense; and render her return to this bar unnecessary
by promptly pronouncing sentence."
"Is it the wish of the prisoner, that sentence should not be
"She wishes to know her fate."
She had uttered no sound, but the lashes trembled, fell over the
tired, aching, strained eyes; and lifting her locked hands she bowed
her chin upon them.
Some moments elapsed, before Judge Parkman spoke; then his voice was
low and solemn.
"Beryl Brentano, you have been indicted for the deliberate and
premeditated murder of your grandfather, Robert Luke Darrington.
Twelve men, selected for their intelligence and impartiality, have
patiently and attentively listened to the evidence in this case, and
have under oath endeavored to discover the truth of this charge. You
have had the benefit of a fair trial, by unbiased judges, and
finally, the jury in the conscientious discharge of their duty, have
convicted you of manslaughter in the first degree, and commended you
to the mercy of the Court. In consideration of your youth, of the
peculiar circumstances surrounding you, and especially, in deference
to the wishes and recommendation of the jury--whose verdict, the
Court approves, I therefore pronounce upon you the lightest penalty
which the law affixes to the crime of manslaughter, of which you
stand convicted; which sentence is--that you be taken hence to the
State Penitentiary, and there be kept securely, for the term of five
With a swift movement, Mr. Dunbar drew the crape veil over her face,
put her arm through his, and led her into the corridor. Hurriedly he
exchanged some words in an undertone with the two officers, who
accompanied him to the rear entrance of the court-house; and then,
in answer to a shrill whistle, a close carriage drawn by two horses
drew up to the door, followed by the dismal equipage set apart for
the transportation of prisoners. The deputy sheriff stepped forward,
trying to shield the girl from the driving rain, and assisted her
into the carriage. Mr. Dunbar sprang in and seated himself opposite.
The officer closed the door, ordered the coachman to drive on, and
then entering the gloomy black box, followed closely, keeping always
in sight of the vehicle in advance.
The clock striking ten, sounded through the muffling storm a knell
as mournful as some tolling bell, while into that wild, moaning
Friday night, went the desolate woman, wearing henceforth the brand
of Cain--remanded to the convict's home.
She had thrown back her veil to ease the stifling sensation in her
throat, and Mr. Dunbar could see now and then, as they dashed past a
street lamp, that she sat upright, still as stone.
At last she said, in a tone peculiarly calm, like that of one
talking in sleep:
"What did it mean--that verdict?"
"That you went back to 'Elm Bluff' with no intention of attacking
"That I went there deliberately to steal, and then to avoid
detection, killed him? That was the verdict of the jury?"
She waited a moment.
"Answer me. That was the meaning? That was the most merciful verdict
they could give to the world?"
Only the hissing sound of the rain upon the glass pane of the
carriage, made reply.
They had reached the bridge, when a hysterical laugh startled the
man, who leaned back on the front seat, with his arms crossed
tightly over a heart throbbing with almost unendurable pain.
"To steal, to rob, to plunder. Branded for all time a thief, a
rogue, a murderess. I!--I--"
A passionate wail told the strain was broken: "I, my father's
darling, my father's Beryl! Hurled into a living tomb, herded with
convicts, with the vilest outcasts that disgrace the earth--this is
worse than a thousand deaths! It would have been so merciful to
crush out the life they mangled; but to doom me to the slow torture
of this loathsome grave, where death brings no release! To die is so
easy, so blessed; but to live--a convicted felon! O, my God! my God!
Hast Thou indeed forsaken me?"
In the appalling realization of her fate, she rocked to and fro for
a moment only, fiercely shaken by the horror of a future never
before contemplated. Then the proud soul stifled its shuddering
sigh, lifted its burden of shame, silently struggled up its awful
Via Crucis. Mute and still, she leaned back in the corner of the
"I could have saved you, but you would not accept deliverance. You
thwarted every effort, tied the hands that might have set you free;
and by your own premeditated course throughout the trial,
deliberately dragged this doom down upon your head. You counted the
cost, and you elected, chose of your own free will to offer yourself
as a sacrifice, to the law, for the crime of another. You are your
own merciless fate, decreeing self-immolation. You were willing to
die, in order to save that man's life; and you can certainly summon
fortitude to endure five years' deprivation of his society;
sustained by the hope that having thereby purchased his security,
you may yet reap the reward your heart demands, reunion with its
worthless, degraded idol. I have watched, weighed, studied you;
searched every stray record of your fair young life, found the clear
pages all pure; and I have doubted, marvelled that you, lily-
hearted, lily-souled, lily-handed, could cast the pearl of your love
down in the mire, to be trampled by swinish feet."
The darkness of the City of Dis that seemed to brood under the wings
of the stormy night, veiled Beryl's face; and her silence goaded him
beyond the limits of prudence, which he had warily surveyed for
"Day and night, I hear the maddening echo of your accusing cry, 'You
have ruined my life!' God knows, you have as effectually ruined
mine. You have your revenge--if it comfort you to know it; but I am
incapable of your sublime renunciation. I am no patient martyr; I
am, instead, an intensely selfish man. You choose to hug the ashes
of desolation; I purpose to sweep away the wreck, to rebuild on the
foundation of one hope, which all the legions in hell cannot shake.
Between you and me the battle has only begun, and nothing but your
death or my victory will end it. You have your revenge; I intend to
enjoy mine. Though he burrow as a mole, or skulk in some fastness of
Alaska, I will track and seize that cowardly miscreant, and when the
law receives its guilty victim, you shall be freed from suspicion,
freed from prison, and most precious of all boons, you shall be
freed forever from the vile contamination of his polluting touch.
For the pangs you have inflicted on me, I will have my revenge: you
shall never be profaned by the name of wife."
Up the rocky hill toiled the horses, arching their necks as they
stooped their faces to avoid the blinding rain: and soon the huge
blot of prison walls, like a crouching monster ambushed in
surrounding gloom, barred the way.
In two windows of the second story, burned lights that borrowed
lurid rays in their passage through the mist, and seemed to glow
angrily, like the red eyes of a sullen beast of prey. The carriage
stopped. A moment after, the deputy-sheriff sprang from his wagon
and rang the bell close to the great gate. Two dogs bayed hoarsely,
and somewhere in the building an answering bell sounded.
Beryl leaned forward.
"Mr. Dunbar, there is one last favor I ask at your hands. I want my-
-my--I want that pipe, that was shown in court. Will you ask that it
may be given to me? Will you send it to me?"
A half strangled, scarcely audible oath was his only reply.
She put out her hand, laid it on his.
"You dare caused me so much suffering, surely you will not deny me
this only recompense I shall ever ask."
His hand closed over hers.
"If I bring it to you, will you confess who smoked it last?"
"After to-night, sir, I think it best I should never see your face
The officer opened the carriage door, the warden approached,
carrying a lantern in one hand and an umbrella in the other. Mr.
Dunbar stepped from the carriage and turning, stretched out his
arms, suddenly snatched the girl for an instant close to his heart,
and lifted her to the ground.
The warden opened the gate, swinging his lantern high to light the
way, and by its flickering rays Lennox Dunbar saw the beautiful
white face, the wonderful, sad eyes, the wan lips contracted by a
spasm of pain.
She turned and followed the warden; the lights wavered; the great
iron gate swung back in its groove, the bolt fell with a sullen
clang; the massive key rattled, a chain clanked, and all was
darkness as she was locked irrevocably into her living tomb.
The annual resurrection had begun; the pulse of Nature quickened,
rose, throbbed under the vernal summons; pale, tender grass-blades
peeped above the mould, houstonias lifted their blue disks to the
March sun, and while the world of birds commenced their preludes
where silky young leaves shyly fluttered, earth and sky were wrapped
in that silvery haze with which coy Springtime half veils her
radiant face. The vivid verdure of wheat and oat fields, the cooler
aqua marina of long stretches of rye, served as mere groundwork for
displaying in bold relief the snowy tufts of plum, the creamy
clusters of pear, and the glowing pink of peach orchards that
clothed the hillsides, and brimmed the valleys with fragrant
prophecies of fruitful plenty.
Dimmed by distance to fine lines of steel, wavered the flocks of
wild geese flying from steaming bayous to icy lakes in the far
North, and now and then as the ranks dipped, a white flash lit the
vignettes traced against the misty, pearl-gray sky.
Spring sunshine had kissed the lips of death, and universal life
sprang palpitating to begin anew the appointed yearly cycle; yet
amid the flush and stir of mother earth, there lay hopelessly still
and cold some human hopes, which no divine "Come forth" would ever
Into the face of Leo Gordon had crept that strange and indescribable
change, which is analogous to the peculiar aspect of the clear
heavens when dark clouds just faintly rim the horizon, below which
they heap their sombre, sullen masses, projecting upward weird
Apparently the sun of prosperity burned in the zenith and gilded her
path with happiness, but analyzed by the prism of her consciousness
the brightness faded, the colors paled, and grim menace crossed
all, like the dark lines of Fraunhofer. To be chosen, loved, wooed
and won exclusively for herself, irrespective of all extraneous
appurtenances and advantages, is the supreme hope innate in every
woman, and the dread that her wealth might invest her with charms
not intrinsic, had made Leo unusually distrustful of the motives of
her numerous suitors. That Leighton Douglass loved the woman, not
the heiress, she knew beyond the possibility of cavil or doubt, and
when, after mature deliberation, she promised her hand to Mr.
Dunbar, she had felt equally sure that no mercenary consideration
biased his choice or inspired his professions of attachment.
For a nature so proudly poised, so averse to all impulsive
manifestations of emotion, her affections were surprisingly warm
and clinging, and she loved him with all the depth and fervor of
her tender, generous heart; hence the slow torture of her
humiliation in the hour of disenchantment. To women who love is
given a sixth sense, a subtile instinct whereby, as in an occult
alembic, they discern the poison that steals into their wine of
joy; so Leo was not long in ignorance that her coveted kingdom
belonged by right of conquest to another, and that she reigned only
nominally and by courtesy.
The evil we most abhor generally espies us afar off, chases
tirelessly, crouches at our feet, grimacing triumphantly at our
impotence to escape its loathsome clutches; and Leo's pride bled
sorely in the realization that she had sold her hand and heart for
base counterfeit equivalents. In a crisis of keen disappointment,
only very noble natures can remain strictly just, yet in arraigning
her lover for disloyalty, this sorrowing woman abstained from
casting all the blame upon him. He had not intentionally deceived
her, had not deliberately betrayed her trust; he was the unwilling
victim of an inexplicable fascination against which she felt assured
he had struggled sullenly and persistently; and which, in destroying
the beautiful edifice of their mutual hopes, offered him nothing but
humiliation in exchange.
Standing to-day beside the pyramid of scarlet geraniums, and
velvety, gold-powdered begonias in the centre of the octagonal room,
where the warm Spring sun shone down through the dome, falling
aslant on the great snowy owl and the rose-colored cockatoo
smoothing their plumes on the top of the glittering brass cages--Leo
contrasted the luxurious and elegant details of her lovely home with
the grim and bleak cell where, in shame and ignominy, dwelt the
young stranger who had stolen her throne. A beggar by the road-side
had filched from the queen in her palace, her crown and sceptre, and
the pomp and splendor of royal surroundings only mocked and
emphasized an empty sham. Merely a trifle paler than usual, and
somewhat heavy-eyed from acquaintance with midnight vigils, she
proudly bore her new burden of grief with her wonted easy grace; but
the pretty mouth was compressed into harder, narrower lines, and the
delicate nose dilated in a haughtier curve. Sooner or later we all
learn the wisdom of the unwelcome admonition: "Fortune sells what we
believe she gives."
For two months Leo's relations with Mr. Dunbar had been distinctly
strained, and while both carefully avoided any verbal attempt at
explanation, her manner had grown more distant, his more
scrupulously courteous, but pre-occupied, guarded and cold. Knowing
that abdication was inevitable, she slowly revolved the best method
of release, which promised the least sacrifice of womanly dignity,
and the greatest economy of unpleasantness on the part of her
During the week of the trial, she had seen him but twice, and
immediately after he had been summoned to attend some suit in New
Orleans, and had hurriedly bidden her adieu in the presence of
others. With punctilious regularity he wrote studiedly polished,
graceful yet merely friendly letters, and like ice morsels they
slowly widened the glacier creeping between the two.
To her council she admitted only her bruised pride, her bleeding
heart, her relentless incorruptible conscience; and over the
conclusion, she shed no tears, made no moan, allowed no margin for
pity. Early on that Spring morning, she had received a glowing sheaf
of La France and Duchess de Brabant roses, accompanied by a brief
note announcing Mr. Dunbar's return, and requesting an interview at
noon. The tone of her reply was markedly cordial, and after offering
congratulations upon his birthday, she begged his acceptance of a
souvenir made for the occasion by her own hands, a dainty "bit of
embroidery which she flattered herself, he would value for the sake
of the donor."
Who doubts that Vashti made a most elaborate toilette, on that day
of humiliation, when discarded and discrowned she trailed her royal
robes for the last time across the marble courts of Shushan, going
forth to make room for Queen Esther? Amid the loops of lace at her
throat, and into the jewelled clasp of her belt, Leo had fastened
the exquisite roses, noting the perfect harmony of her costume, as
she smoothed the folds of the sapphire velvet robe which she knew
that Mr. Dunbar particularly admired. The lofty, beautiful room was
aglow with rich color from oriental rugs strewn about the marble
floor, from masses of hyacinths and crimson camellias in stands,
baskets, vases; from brilliant tropical birds flitting to and fro;
and through the gilt wire vista of the aviary, the fountain in the
peristyle beyond threw up its silvery hands to arrest attention,
and softly beat time to the music of the gold and green canaries.
The large white owl with wide, prescient, berylline eyes, rose
suddenly, and on slow wings circled round and round, flying
gradually to the ceiling of the dome, then swooped back to its
perch; and the Siberian hound, a huge, dun-hued creature, lifted his
head from the velvet rug and rubbed it against his mistress' dress.
As the sound of a step she knew so well, rang in the vestibule, the
blood leaped to Leo's cheeks, but she walked quickly forward, and
met her visitor just beneath the "Salve" in the scroll of olives,
putting out her hands across the onyx table with its red and black
bowl of violets. Thus at arm's length, she held him a moment.
"I am very glad to see you; and I wish you a happy birthday, hoping
your new year may be as bright as the sun that ushers it in; and as
full of fragrance as these lovely roses, which I wear in honor of
Hand in hand, she smiled up into his handsome face, and certainly he
had never looked more kingly, more worthy of her homage.
"Thank you, dear Leo. The light and sweetness of my future can be
blotted out, only by losing you. You must be the fulfilment of your
own kind wishes."
He raised her left hand, kissed it lightly, and as she withdrew her
fingers and resumed her seat, in front of an ottoman ablaze with a
tangled mass of brilliant Berlin wool, he sat down at her side.
Ere she was aware of his intention, he pushed the ottoman beyond her
reach, and dexterously catching her hand, took the gold thimble
from her finger and dropped it into his vest pocket.
"Perish the fetich of needle-work, crochet and knitting! To-day at
least it shall not come between us;--and I claim your eyes, your
undivided attention. Now tell me how many of my rivals, how many
audacious suitors you have held at bay, by these gay Penelope webs
woven in my absence?"
"Has Ulysses the right to be curious? Should not memories of Calypso
incline him to unlock the fetters of Penelope?"
"Did she ever for one instant deem the silken cords she hugged to
her loyal, tender heart--fetters? Sweet, patient incarnation of
unquestioning fidelity, she stands the eternal antithesis of Mrs.
Caudle. From Kittie's letter, I inferred you were not well; but
certainly, my dear Leo, I never saw you look more lovely than to-
"Just now Kittie's perceptions are awry, dazzled by the rose light
that wrap? her world. Has Prince arrived?"
"Yes, he came yesterday, and my little sister is entirely and
overwhelmingly happy, for he is literally her Prince. Physically he
is much improved; has developed surprisingly, but has the shy,
taciturn manner of a student, and is, I fear, a hopeless bookworm."
"Why should his literary taste disquiet you? He went to Germany to
foster his scholarly inclination."
"Why? Why should a man apprentice himself to a carpenter, and become
an expert joiner, when he can never obtain the tools requisite to
enable him to work successfully? His aspirations run along the
grooves of science; and after dear little Kittie, his favorite
Goddess is Biology. Trained in the laboratory of a German scientist,
where every imaginable facility for researches in vivisection, and
for the investigation of certain biological problems was afforded
him, he lands in America empty-handed, and behold my carpenter minus
"Having fitted himself for the profession, you surely will not
attempt now to discourage or dissuade him."
"The logic of impecuniosity will doubtless accomplish more than the
dissuasion of friends. Microscopic inspection of red and white
corpuscles, of virus, tissues, protoplasm and chlorophyl is probably
very interesting to lovers of microbes, and students of
segmentation, but such abstract pursuits appertain to purple and
fine linen. A profession means much; but ability to practise,
infinitely more. Just now the paramount problem is, how Prince can
best make his bread. Six months ago, he was prospectively so rich
that he could indulge the whim of blowing scientific soap-bubbles
labelled with abstruse symbols; at present, necessity directs his
attention to paying his board bills."
"I thought a liberal allowance had been settled upon him, and ample
provision made for his future?"
"So there certainly was, on paper; but the destruction of the record
invalidated the gift." "All the world knows that he has the rights
of an adopted son."
"All the world knows equally well, that failing to produce the will,
Prince has lost his legacy, and must enlist in the army of 'bread-
"Then what becomes of 'Elm Bluff' and its fine estate?"
"They descend in the line decreed alike by law and nature, to the
nearest blood relation."
Leo felt the blood reddening her throat and cheeks, but under the
quick glance of her hazel eyes, his handsome face always en garde
showed no embarrassing consciousness. Fearful of silence, she said
in a perplexed, inconsequent tone:
"How manifestly unjust. Poor Kittie!"
"Why poor Kittie? Her beaming face is eloquent repudiation of your
pity, and she verily believes her blond-headed, scholarly Prince a
bountiful equivalent for all Croesus' belongings. Rich little
Kittie! After all, where genuine love reigns, worldly environment
matters comparatively little; love makes happiness, and happiness is
A throb of pain shook the woman's heart as she realized the bitter
truth that he spoke from an experience born out of season: that he
was athirst for that which her fortune, her love, her own fair,
graceful self could never give him.
She looked at him, with an arch smile lighting her face, but he saw
the trembling of her lips, noted the metallic ring in her voice.
"'Et in Arcadia Ego?' Recent associations have rendered you idyllic.
I can recall a period when 'love in a cottage' was the target that
challenged the keenest arrows of your satire. Rich little Kittie has
my warmest congratulations. Will Prince remain in X--?"
"How can he? The demand here for amateur scientists is not
sufficiently encouraging; and I rather think he gravitates toward a
college professorship, which might at least supply him abundantly
with rabbits, turtles, frogs and guinea-pigs for biological
manipulation and experiment. One of the gay balloons floating
through his mind, is a series of lectures to be delivered in the
large cities. Heredity is his pet hobby, and he proposes to canter
it under the saddle of Weismann's theory (whatever that may be),
expounding it to scientific Americans. As yet no plans have
crystallized. His allowance was paid semi-annually, but of course it
failed him last January, and no alternative presents itself but some
attempt to utilize his technical lore. There is a vacancy in the
faculty of C---University, and I shall write at once to the board of
Like a moth, Leo flitted closer to the flame.
"Will he make no attempt to secure his rights?"
"He is too wise to waste his time in so fruitless an endeavor."
"Have you advised him to submit tamely to the deprivation of his
"He has not consulted me, but Wolverton, who is his cousin,
convinced him of the futility of any legal proceedings."
"Does General Darrington's granddaughter understand that Prince's
career will be ruined for want of the money to which he is
"I am not acquainted with the views Gen'l Darrington's granddaughter
entertains concerning Prince, as I have not seen her since the trial
ended. Have you?"
Each looked steadily at the other, and under the gleam of his eyes,
hers fell, and her color flickered.
"I went once, but was denied admission. Even Sister Serena sees her
no longer. You doubtless know that she is recovering slowly from a
severe attack of illness."
"I have heard nothing since the night she was convicted and
sentenced. To-day I found a message at my office from Singleton,
asking me to call at my earliest convenience at the penitentiary, on
a matter of legal business. To what it refers, I know not, as I
came immediately here."
There was a brief silence, in which his gaze mercilessly searched
her fair, proud face; then with a supreme effort she laid her hand
suddenly on his, and looked up smiling:
"I believe I was growing very impatient over your prolonged absence
in New Orleans. Time dragged dismally, and I was never more
rejoiced than when I received your last letter, and knew that I
should see you to-day. Lennox, I have set my heart on something,
which only your consent and acquiescence will secure to me. I am
about to ask for a mammoth sugar-plum that has dangled temptingly
before my eyes for nearly a year, and I shall enjoy it the more if
you bestow it graciously. Can you be generous and indulge my selfish
He felt a quiver in the cold fingers over which his warm hand
closed, saw the throbbing of the artery in her white throat, the
ebbing of the scarlet in lips that bravely held their coaxing,
smiling curves, and he knew that the crisis he had long foreseen was
Leaning closer, he looked down into her brown eyes. The end must
come; but he would not precipitate it. Like Francis at Pavia, he
acknowledged to himself that all was lost, save honor.
"Whenever my Leo convinces me she can be selfish, I promise all that
she can possibly ask; but the selfishness must first be
He had never been dearer to her than at that moment, when his
brilliant eyes seemed to search her soul and magnetize her; yet she
did not falter and the aching of her heart was a goad to her will.
"You merely shower lesser sugar-plums, intending they shall surfeit.
Lennox, you know how often I have longed to make the journey to
Greece, Asia Minor and Egypt; you remember I have repeatedly
expressed the wish? You--"
"Pardon me, sweetheart, but this is the first time I ever heard it."
"You forget. At last the consummation unfolds itself as smoothly as
the fourth act of a melodrama. My friend and schoolmate, Alma
Cutting, of New York, invites a small party of ladies and gentlemen
to accompany her in a cruise through the Levant, on her father's new
and elegant steam yacht 'Cleopatra'. I have pressing letters from
Alma and Mr. Cutting, kindly urging me to join them in New York by
the first of May, at which time they expect to start on a
preliminary cruise through the North and Baltic seas; drifting
southward so as to reach Sicily and Malta as soon as cool weather
permits. Do you wonder that so charming and picturesque a tour
tempts me sorely?"
Unconsciously she had hurried her enunciation, but imperturbable as
the bronze he resembled, Mr. Dunbar listened; merely passing his
left arm around her, drawing her resisting form closer to him,
holding her firmly.
"I am waiting for the selfish aspect of this scheme, else I should
answer at once, the coveted sugar-plum is yours, and we will make
the tour whenever you like, with the minor difference of mere
details; we will go in our own yacht."
She caught her breath, and for an instant the world swam in a burst