This page contains affiliate links. As Amazon Associates we earn from qualifying purchases.
Buy it on Amazon FREE Audible 30 days

burned with an intolerable sense of humiliation. Was it partition, or total loss, of her precious kingdom? In after years, she designated this Christmas as the era when the “sceptre departed from Judah;” but putting away the chagrin, and sealing the well of bitterness in her heart, she exchanged holiday greetings, and proudly wore her royal robes throughout the day, holding sternly off the spectre, which grimly bided its time–the hour of her abdication.

Through the benevolent and compassionate efforts of Mr. and Mrs. Singleton, some faint reflection of the outside world festivities penetrated the dismal monotony of prison routine; and the hearts of the inmates were softened and gladdened by kind tokens of remembrance, that carried the thoughts of bearded convicts back to Christmas carols in innocent youth, and to the mother’s knees where prayers were lisped.

Illness had secured to Beryl immunity from contact with her comrades in misery, and except to visit the little chapel, she never left the sheltering walls of her small comfortless room, grateful for the unexpected boon of silent seclusion. Her Christmas greeting had been little Dick’s sweet lips kissing her cheek, as he deposited upon her narrow bed the black and white shawl his mother had knitted, and a box left by Miss Gordon on the previous day, which contained half a dozen pretty handkerchiefs with mourning borders, some delicate perfume and soaps, toilet brushes and a sachet.

An hour later, when Mrs. Singleton and her babies had gone to spend the day with relatives in the city, Beryl went to the window, pushed the sash up, and listened to the ringing of the Sabbath-school bells, as every church beyond the river called its nursery to the altar, to celebrate the day. The metallic clangor was mellowed by distance, rising and falling like rhythmic waves, and the faint echo, filtered through dense pine forests behind the penitentiary, had the ghostly iteration of the Folge Fond.

A gaunt yellow kitten, with a faded red ribbon knotted about its neck, and vicious, amber-colored eyes that were a perpetual challenge, had fled from the tender mercies of Dick to the city of refuge under Beryl’s cot; and community of suffering had kindled an attachment that now prompted the lesser waif to spring into the girl’s folded arms, and rub its head against her shoulder. Mechanically Beryl’s hand stroked the creature’s ear, while it purred softly under the caress; but suddenly its back curved into an arch, the tail broadened, the purr became a growl. Had association lifted the brute’s instincts to the plane of human antipathies?

The warden had opened the door and quickly closed it, after ushering in a tall figure, who wore an overcoat which was buttoned from throat to knees. At sight of Mr. Dunbar, the cat plunged to the floor, and sped away to the darkest corner under the iron bedstead.

“Good morning. I dare not utter here the greetings of the day, because you would construe it into a heartless mockery.”

He came forward hesitatingly, and she turned swiftly away, pressing her face against the bars of the window, waving him back.

“Why will you persist in regarding as an enemy, the one person in all the world who is most anxious to befriend you?”

Still no answer; only the repellent gesture warning him away.

“Will you allow me, this Christmas morning, to comfort myself in some degree, by leaving here a few flowers to brighten your desolate surroundings?”

He held out a bouquet of rare and brilliant hothouse blossoms, whose delicious fragrance had already pervaded the room. They stood side by side, yet she shrank farther, and kept her face averted, shivering perceptibly. Lifting one arm he drew down the sash to shut out the freezing air.

“You are resolved neither to look at nor speak to me? So be it. At least you must listen to me. You may not care to hear that I have been absent, but perhaps it will interest you to know that I went in search of the man for whose crime you are paying the penalty.”

If he expected her to wince under the probe, her nerves were taut, and she defied the steel; but the face she now turned fully to him was so blanched by illness, so hopeless in its rigid calm, that he felt a keen pain at his own heart.

“Prisoners, victims of justice, have, it seems, no privileges; else my one request, my earnest prayer to be shielded from your presence, might have protected me from this intrusion. Are you akin to Parrhasius that you come to gloat over the agonies of a moral and mental vivisection? The sight of suffering to which you have brought a helpless woman, is scarcely the recompense I was taught to suppose agreeable to a chivalrous Southern gentleman. If, wearing the red livery of Justice, undue zeal for vengeance betrayed you into the fatal mistake of trampling me into this horrible place, there might be palliation; but for the brutal persistency with which you thrust your tormenting presence upon me, not even heavenly charity could possibly find pardon. Literally you are heaping insult upon awful injury. Is it a refinement of cruelty that brings you here to watch and analyze my suffering, as a biologist looks through lenses at an insect he empales, or Pasteur scrutinizes the mortal throes of the victims into whose veins he has injected poison?”

If she had drawn a lash across his face, it would not have stung more keenly than her words, so expressive of detestation.

“Will you consider for a moment the possibility that other motives actuate me; that ceaseless regret, remorse, if you choose, for a terrible mistake, impels me to come here in the hope of making reparation?”

“Such a supposition is as inconceivable as the idea of reparation. When a reaper goes forth to his ripe harvest, his lawful labor, and wantonly turns aside into a by-path, to try the edge of his sickle on an humble, unoffending stalk that fights for life among the grass and weeds, and struggles to get its head sufficiently in the sunshine to bloom–when he cuts it off unopened, crushes it into the sod, can he make reparation? Although it is neither bearded yellow wheat, nor yet a black tare, it proved the temper of his blade; and all the skill, all the science of universal humanity, cannot re- erect the stem, cannot remove the stains, cannot unfold the bruised petals. There are wrongs that all time will never repair. Your sword of justice needs no whetting; one stroke has laid me low.”

“I purpose to file it two-edged, in order to make no more mistakes. Before long I shall cut down the real criminal, the principal, who shall not escape, and for whom you shall not suffer.”

“Then ‘a life for a life’ no longer satisfies? How many are required? The law has need of a sacrificial stone wide as that of the Aztecs. Is justice a’daughter of the horse-leech’?”

“So help me God–“

“Hush! Take not His name upon your lips. Men like you cannot afford to credit the existence of a holy God. This is Christmas–at least according to the almanac–now as a ‘chivalrous Southern gentleman,’ will you grant me a very great favor if I humbly crave it? Ah, noblesse oblige! you cannot deny me. I beg of you, then, leave me instantly; come here no more. Never let me see your face again, or hear your voice, except in the court-room, when I am tried for the crime which you have told the world I committed. This boon is the sole possible reparation left you.”

She had clasped her hands so tightly, that the nails were bloodless, and the fluttering in her white throat betrayed the throbbing of her heart.

“You are afraid of me, because you dread my discovering your secret, which is–“

“You have done your worst. You have locked me away from a dying mother; disgraced an innocent life; broken a girl’s pure, happy heart; what else is there to dread? Although a bird knows full well when it has received its death wound, instinct drives it to flutter, drag itself as far as possible from the gaze of the sportsman, and gasp out its agony in some lonely place.”

“When I hunt birds, and a partridge droops its wings, and hovers almost at my feet, inviting capture, I know beyond all peradventure that it is only love’s ruse; that something she holds dearer than her own life, is thereby screened, saved. You are guilty of a great crime against yourself, you are submitting tacitly, consenting to an awful doom, in order to spare and protect the real murderer.”

He bent closer, watching breathlessly for some change in her white stony face; but her sad eyes met his with no wavering of the lids, and only her delicate nostrils dilated slightly. She raised her locked hands, rested her lips a moment on her mother’s ring, as if drinking some needed tonic, and answered in the same low, quiet tone:

“Then, prime minister of justice, set me free, and punish the guilty. Who murdered General Darrington?”

“You have known from the beginning; and I intend to set you free, when that cowardly miscreant has been secured. You would die to save your lover; you, proud, brave, noble natured, would sacrifice your precious life for that wretched, vile poltroon, who flees and leaves you to suffer in his stead! Truly, there is no mystery so profound, so complex, so subtle as a woman’s heart. To die for his crimes, were a happier fate than to sully your fair soul by alliance with one so degraded; and, by the help of God, I intend to snatch you from both!”

He had put his hands for an instant upon her shoulders, and his handsome face flushed, eloquent with the feeling that he no longer cared to disguise, was so close to hers, that she felt his breath on her cheek.

Swiftly, unerringly she comprehended everything; and the suddenness of the discovery dazzled, awed her, as one might feel under the blue flash of a dagger when thrust into one’s clasp for novice fingers to feel the edge. Was the weapon valued merely because of the possibility of fleshing it in the heart of him who had darkened her life? Did he understand as fully the marvellous change in the beautiful face, that had lured him from his chapel tryst with his betrothed? He was on the alert for signals of distress, of embarrassment, of terror; but what meant the glad light that leaped up in her eyes, the quick flush staining her wan cheek, the triumphant smile curving lips that a moment before might have belonged to Guercino’s Mater Dolorosa, the relaxation of figure and features, the unmistakable expression of intense relief that stole into the countenance?

“Will you be so good as to tell me my lover’s name, and where the fox terriers of the law unearthed him?”

“I will tell you something which you do not already know; that I have found a clue, that I shall hunt him out, hide, crouch where he may; that here, where he sinned, he shall expiate his crime, and that when your lover is hung, your name, your honor, shall be vindicated. So much, Lennox Dunbar promises you, on his honor as a gentleman.”

“Words, vapid words! Empty, worthless as last year’s nests. My lover,” she laughed scornfully, “is quite safe even from your malevolence. If indeed ‘one touch of nature makes the whole world kin,’ one might expect some pity from the guild of love swains; and it augurs sadly for Miss Gordon’s future, that the spell is so utterly broken.”

His dark face reddened, lowered.

“If you please, we will keep Miss Gordon’s name out of the conversation, and hereafter when–“

“Enough! I shall keep her image in my grateful heart, the few tedious months I have to live; and there seems indeed a sort of poetic justice in the fact that the bride you covet, has become the truest, tenderest friend of the hapless girl whom you are prosecuting for murder.”


“I forbid such insolent presumption! You shall not utter the name my father gave me. It is holy as my baptism; it must be kept unsullied for my lover’s lips to fondle. This is your last visit here, for if you dare to intrude again, I will demand protection from the warden. I will bear no more.”

As he looked at her, the witchery of her youthful loveliness, heightened by the angry sparkle in her deep eyes, by the vivid carnation of her curling lips, mastered him; and when he thought of the brown-haired woman to whom he was pledged, he set his teeth tight, to smother an execration. He moved toward the door, paused, and came back.

“Will it comfort you to know that I suffer even more than you do; that I am plunged into a fiercer purgatory than that to which I have condemned you? I am devoured by regret; but I will atone. I came here as your friend; I can never be less, and in defiance of your hatred, I shall prove my sincerity. Because I bemoan my rash haste, will you say good-bye kindly? Some day, perhaps, you will understand.”

He held out his hand, and his blue eyes lost their steely glitter, filled with a prayer for pardon.

She picked up the bouquet which had fallen from the window sill to the floor, and without hesitation put it into his fingers:

“I think I understand all that words could ever explain. My short stream of life is very near the great ocean of rest. I have ceased to struggle, ceased to hope; and since the end is so close, I wish no active warfare even with those who wronged me most foully. If you will spare me the sight of you, I will try to forget the added misery of the visits you have forced upon me, and perhaps some of the bitterness may die out. Take the flowers to Miss Gordon; leave no trace to remind me of your persecution. We bear chastisement because we must, but the sight of the rod renews the sting; so, henceforth, I hope to see you no more. When we meet before our God, I may have a new heart, swept clean of earthly hate, but until then- -until then–“

He caught her fingers, crushed his lips against them, and walked from the room, leaving the bouquet a shattered mass of perfume in the middle of the floor.


Standing before Leon Gerome’s tragic picture, and listening to the sepulchral echo that floats down the arcade of centuries. “Ave, Imperator, morituri te salutant,” nineteenth century womanhood frowns, and deplores the brutal depravity which alone explains the presence of that white-veiled vestal band, whose snowy arms are thrust in signal over the parapet of the bloody arena; yet fair daughters of the latest civilization show unblushing flower faces among the heaving mass of the “great unwashed” who crowd our court- rooms–and listen to revolting details more repugnant to genuine modesty, than the mangled remains in the Colosseum. The rosy thumbs of Roman vestals were potent ballots in the Eternal City, and possibly were thrown only in the scale of mercy; but having no voice in verdicts, to what conservative motive may be ascribed the presence of women at criminal trials? Are the children of Culture, the heiresses of “all the ages”, really more refined than the proud old dames of the era of Spartacus?

Is the spectacle of mere physical torture, in gladiatorial combats, or in the bloody precincts of plaza de toros, as grossly demoralizing as the loathsome minutiae of heinous crimes upon which legal orators dilate; and which Argus reporters, with magnifying lenses at every eye, reproduce for countless newspapers, that serve as wings for transporting moral dynamite to hearthstones and nurseries all over our land? Is there a distinction, without a difference, between police gazettes and the journalistic press?

If extremes meet, and the march of human progress be along no asymtotic line, is the day very distant when we shall welcome the Renaissance of that wisdom which two thousand years ago held its august tribunal in the solemn hours of night, when darkness hid from the Judges everything save well-authenticated facts? The supreme aim of civil and criminal law being the conservation of national and individual purity, to what shall we attribute the paradox presented in its administration, whereby its temples become lairs of libel, their moral atmosphere defiled by the monstrous vivisection of parental character by children, the slaughter of family reputation, the exhaustive analysis of every species of sin forbidden by the Decalogue, and floods of vulgar vituperation dreadful as the Apocalyptic vials? Can this generation

“–in the foremost files of time–“

afford to believe that a grim significance lurks in the desuetude of typical judicial ermine?

Traditions of ante bellum custom proclaimed that “good society” in the town of X–, formerly considered the precincts of courts as unfit for ladies as the fetid air of morgues, or the surgical instruments on dissecting tables; but the vanguard of cosmopolitan freedom and progress had pitched tents in the old-fashioned place, and recruited rapidly from the ranks of the invaded; hence it came to pass, that on the second day of the murder trial, when the preliminaries of jury empanelling had been completed, and all were ready to launch the case, X–announced its social emancipation from ancient canons of decorum, by the unwonted spectacle of benches crowded with “ladies”, whose silken garments were crushed against the coarser fabrics of proletariat. Despite the piercing cold of a morning late in February, the mass of human furnaces had raised the temperature to a degree that encouraged the fluttering of fans, and necessitated the order that no additional spectators should be admitted.

Viewed through the leaden haze of fearful anticipation, the horror of the impending trial had seemed unendurable to the proud and sensitive girl, whom the Sheriff placed on a seat fronting the sea of curious faces, the battery of scrutinizing eyes turned on her from the jury-box. Four months of dread had unnerved her, yet now when the cruel actuality seized her in its iron grasp, that superb strength which the inevitable lends to conscious innocence, so steeled and fortified her, that she felt lifted to some lonely height, where numbness eased her aching wounds.

Pallid and motionless, she sat like a statue, save for the slow strokes of her right hand upon the red gold of her mother’s ring; and the sound of a man’s voice reading a formula, seemed to echo from an immeasurable distance. She had consented to, had deliberately accepted the worst possible fate, and realized the isolation of her lot; but for one thing she was not prepared, and its unexpectedness threatened to shiver her calmness. Two women made their way toward her: Dyce and Sister Serena. The former sat down in the rear of the prisoner, the latter stood for a few seconds, and her thin delicate hand fell upon the girl’s shoulder. At sight of the sweet, placid countenance below the floating white muslin veil, Beryl’s lips quivered into a sad smile; and as they shook hands she whispered:

“I believe even the gallows will not frighten you two from my side.”

Sister Serena seated herself as close as possible, drew from her pocket a gray woollen stocking, and began to knit. For an instant Beryl’s eyes closed, to shut in the sudden gush of grateful tears; when she opened them, Mr. Churchill had risen:

“May it please the Court, Gentlemen of the Jury: If fidelity to duty involved no sacrifice of personal feeling, should we make it the touchstone of human character, value it as the most precious jewel in the crown of human virtues? I were less than a man, immeasurably less than a gentleman, were I capable of addressing you to-day, in obedience to the behests of justice, and in fulfilment of the stern requirements of my official position, without emotions of profound regret, that implacable Duty, to whom I have sworn allegiance, forces me to hush the pleading whispers of my pitying heart, to smother the tender instincts of human sympathy, and to listen only to the solemn mandate of those laws, which alone can secure to our race the enjoyment of life, liberty and property. An extended professional career has hitherto furnished me no parallel for the peculiarly painful exigencies of this occasion; and an awful responsibility scourges me with scorpion lash to a most unwelcome task. When man crosses swords with man on any arena, innate pride nerves his arm and kindles enthusiasm, but alas, for the man! be he worthy the name, who draws his blade and sees before him a young, helpless, beautiful woman, disarmed. Were it not a bailable offence in the court of honor, if his arm fell palsied? Each of you who has a mother, a wife, a lily browed daughter, put yourself in my place, lend me your sympathy; and at least applaud the loyalty that strangles all individuality, and renders me bound thrall of official duty. Counsel for the defence has been repeatedly offered, nay, pressed upon the prisoner, but as often persistently rejected; hence the almost paralyzing repugnance with which I approach my theme.

“The Grand Jury of the county, at its last sitting, returned to this court a bill of indictment, charging the prisoner at the bar with the wilful, deliberate and premeditated murder of Robert Luke Darrington, by striking him with a brass andiron. To this indictment she has pleaded ‘Not Guilty,’ and stands before her God and this community for trial. Gentlemen of the jury, you represent this commonwealth, jealous of the inviolability of its laws, and by virtue of your oaths, you are solemnly pledged to decide upon her guilt or innocence, in strict accordance with the evidence that may be laid before you. In fulfilling this sacred duty, you will, I feel assured, be governed exclusively by a stern regard to the demands of public justice. While it taxes our reluctant credulity to believe that a crime so hideous could have been committed by a woman’s hand, could have been perpetrated without provocation, within the borders of our peaceful community, nevertheless, the evidence we shall adduce must inevitably force you to the melancholy conclusion that the prisoner at the bar is guilty of the offence, with which she stands charged. The indictment which you are about to try, charges Beryl Brentano with the murder.

“In outlining the evidence which will be presented in support of this indictment, I earnestly desire that you will give me your dispassionate and undivided attention; and I call God to witness, that disclaiming personal animosity and undue zeal for vengeance, I am sorrowfully indicating as an officer of the law, a path of inquiry, that must lead you to that goal where, before the altar of Truth, Justice swings her divine scales, and bids Nemesis unsheathe her sword.

“On the afternoon of October the twenty-sixth, about three o’clock, a stranger arrived in X–and inquired of the station agent what road would carry her to ‘Elm Bluff’, the home of General Darrington; assuring him she would return in time to take the north-bound train at 7.15, as urgent business necessitated her return. Demanding an interview with Gen’l Darrington, she was admitted, incognito, and proclaimed herself his granddaughter, sent hither by a sick mother, to procure a certain sum of money required for specified purposes. That the interview was stormy, was characterized by fierce invective on her part, and by bitter denunciation and recrimination on his, is too well established to admit of question; and they parted implacable foes, as is attested by the fact that he drove her from his room through a rear and unfrequented door, opening into a flower garden, whence she wandered over the grounds until she found the gate. The vital import of this interview lies in the great stress Gen’l Darrington placed upon the statement he iterated and reiterated; that he had disinherited his daughter, and drawn up a will bequeathing his entire estate to his step-son Prince.

“Miss Brentano did not leave X–at 7.15, though she had ample time to do so, after quitting ‘Elm Bluff’. She loitered about the station house until nearly half-past eight, then disappeared. At 10 P.M. she was seen and identified by a person who had met her at ‘Elm Bluff’, crouching behind a tree near the road that led to that ill-fated house, and when questioned regarding her presence there, gave unsatisfactory answers. At half-past two o’clock she was next seen hastening toward the station office, along the line of the railroad, from the direction of the water tank, which is situated nearly a mile north of town. Meanwhile an unusually severe storm had been followed by a drenching rain, and the stranger’s garments were wet, when, after a confused and contradictory account of her movements, she boarded the 3.05 train bound north.

“During that night, certainly after ten o’clock, Gen’l Darrington was murdered. His vault was forced open, money was stolen, and most significant of all, the WILL was abstracted. Criminal jurisprudence holds that the absence of motive renders nugatory much weighty testimony. In this melancholy cause, could a more powerful motive be imagined than that which goaded the prisoner to dip her fair hands in her grandfather’s blood, in order to possess and destroy that will, which stood as an everlasting barrier between her and the estate she coveted?

“Crimes are referrible to two potent passions of the human soul; malice, engendering thirst for revenge, and the insatiable lust of money. If that old man had died a natural death, leaving the will he had signed, his property would have belonged to the adopted son, to whom he bequeathed it, and Mrs. Brentano and her daughter would have remained paupers. Cut off by assassination, and with no record of his last wishes in existence, the beloved son is bereft of his legacy, and Beryl Brentano and her mother inherit the blood-bought riches they covet. When arrested, gold coins and jewels identified as those formerly deposited in Gen’l Darrington’s vault, were found in possession of the prisoner; and as if every emissary of fate were armed with warrants for her detection, a handkerchief bearing her initials, and saturated with the chloroform which she had administered to her victim, was taken from the pillow, where his honored gray head rested, when he slept his last sleep on earth. Further analysis would insult your intelligence, and having very briefly laid before you the intended line of testimony, I believe I have assigned a motive for this monstrous crime, which must precipitate the vengeance of the law, in a degree commensurate with its enormity. Time, opportunity, motive, when in full accord, constitute a fatal triad, and the suspicious and unexplainable conduct of the prisoner in various respects, furnishes, in connection with other circumstances of this case, the strongest presumptive evidence of her guilt. These circumstances, far beyond the realm of human volition, smelted and shaped in the rolling mills of destiny, form the tramway along which already the car of doom thunders; and when they shall have been fully proved to you, by unassailable testimony, no alternative remains but the verdict of guilty. Mournful as is the duty, and awfully solemn the necessity that leaves the issue of life and death in your hands, remember, gentlemen, Curran’s immortal words: ‘A juror’s oath is the adamantine chain that binds the integrity of man to the throne of eternal justice’.”

No trace of emotion was visible on the prisoner’s face, except at the harsh mention of her mother’s name; when a shudder was perceptible, as in one where dentist’s steel pierces a sensitive nerve. In order to avoid the hundreds of eyes that stabbed her like merciless probes, her own had been raised and fixed upon a portion of the cornice in the room where a family of spiders held busy camp; but a fascination song resisted, finally drew their gaze down to a seat near the bar, and she encountered the steady, sorrowful regard of Mr. Dunbar.

Two months had elapsed since the Christmas morning on which she had rejected his floral offering, and during that weary season of waiting, she had refused to see any visitors except Dyce and Sister Serena; resolutely denying admittance to Miss Gordon. She knew that he had been absent, had searched for some testimony in New York, and now meeting his eyes, she saw a sudden change in their expression–a sparkle, a smile of encouragement, a declaration of success. He fancied he understood the shadow of dread that drifted over her face; and she realized at that instant, that of all foes, she had most to apprehend from the man who she knew loved her with an unreasoning and ineradicable fervor. How much had he discovered? She could defy the district solicitor, the judge, the jury; but only one method of silencing the battery that was ambushed in those gleaming blue eyes presented itself. To extinguish his jealousy, by removing the figment of a rival, might rob him of the motive that explained his persistent pursuit of the clue she had concealed; but it would simultaneously demolish, also, the barrier that stretched between Miss Gordon’s happy heart and the bitter waves of a cruel disappointment. If assured that her own affection was unpledged, would the bare form and ceremonial of honor bind his allegiance to his betrothed? Absorbed in these reflections, the prisoner became temporarily oblivious of the proceedings; and it was not until Sister Serena touched her arm, that she saw the vast throng was watching her, waiting for some reply. The Judge repeated his question:

“Is it the desire of the prisoner to answer the presentation of the prosecution? Having refused professional defence, you now have the option of addressing the Court.”

“Let the prosecution proceed.”

There was no quiver in her voice, as cold, sweet and distinct it found its way to the extremity of the wide apartment; yet therein lurked no defiance. She resumed her seat, and her eyes sank, until the long black fringes veiled their depths. Unperceived, Judge Dent had found a seat behind her, and leaning forward he whispered:

“Will you permit me to speak for you?”

“Thank you–no.”

“But it cuts me to the heart to see you so forsaken, so helpless.”

“God is my helper; He will not forsake me.”

The first witness called and sworn was Doctor Ledyard, the physician who for many years had attended General Darrington; and who testified that when summoned to examine the body of deceased, on the morning of the inquest, he had found it so rigid that at least eight hours must have elapsed since life became extinct. Had discovered no blood stains, and only two contusions, one on the right temple, where a circular black spot was conspicuous, and a bluish bruise over the region of the heart. He had visited deceased on the morning of previous day, and he then appeared much better, and almost relieved of rheumatism and pains attributable to an old wound in the right knee. The skull had not been fractured by the blow on the temple, but witness believed it had caused death; and the andiron, which he identified as the one found on the floor close to the deceased, was so unusually massive, he was positive that if hurled with any force, it would produce a fatal result.

Mr, Churchill: “Did you at that examination detect any traces of chloroform?”

“There was an odor of chloroform very perceptible when we lifted the hair to examine the skull; and on searching the room, we found a vial which had contained chloroform, and was beside the pillow, where a portion had evidently leaked out.”

“Could death have occurred in consequence of inhaling that chloroform?”

“If so, the deceased could never have risen, and would have been found in his bed; moreover, the limbs were drawn up, and bent into a position totally inconsistent with any theory of death produced by anaesthetics; and the body was rigid as iron.”

The foregoing testimony was confirmed by that of Doctor Cranmar, a resident physician, who had been summoned by the Coroner to assist Doctor Ledyard in the examination, reported formally at the inquest.

“Here, gentlemen of the jury, is the fatal weapon with which a woman’s hand, supernaturally nerved in the struggle for gain, struck down, destroyed a venerable old man, an honored citizen, whose gray hairs should have shielded him from the murderous assault of a mercenary adventuress. Can she behold without a shudder, this tell- tale instrument of her monstrous crime?”

High above his head, Mr. Churchill raised the old-fashioned andiron, and involuntarily Beryl glanced at the quaint brass figure, cast in the form of a unicorn, with a heavy ball surmounting the horn.

“Abednego Darrington!”

Sullen, crestfallen and woe-begone was the demeanor of the old negro, who had been brought vi et armis by a constable, from the seclusion of a corner of the “Bend Plantation”, where he had secreted himself, to avoid the shame of bearing testimony against his mistress’ child. When placed on the witness stand, he crossed his arms over his chest, planted his right foot firmly in advance, and fixed his eyes on the leather strings that tied his shoes.

After some unimportant preliminaries, the District Solicitor asked:

“When did you first see the prisoner, who now sits before you?”

“When she come to our house, the evening before ole Marster died.”

“You admitted her to your Master’s presence?”

“I never tuck no sech libberties. He tole me to let her in.”

“You carried her to his room?”

“Yes, sir.”

“About what time of the day was it?”

“Don’t know.”

“Gen’l Darrington always dined at three o’clock. Was it before or after dinner?”


“How long was the prisoner in the General’s room?”

“Don’t know.”

“Did she leave the house by the front door, or the side door?”

“Can’t say. Didn’t see her when she come out.”

“About how long was she in the house?”

“I totes no watch, and I never had no luck guessing. I’m shore to land wrong.”

“Was it one hour or two?”

“Mebbe more, mebbe less.”

“Where were you during that visit?”

“Feedin’ my game pullets in the backyard.”

“Did you hear any part of the conversation between the prisoner and Gen’l Darrington?”

“No, sir! I’m above the meanness of eavesdrapping.”

“How did you learn that she was the granddaughter of Gen’l Darrington?”

“Miss Angerline, the white ‘oman what mends and sews, come to the back piazer, and beckoned me to run there. She said ther must be a ‘high ole fracas’, them was her words, agoin’ on in Marster’s room, for he was cussin’ and swearin’, and his granddaughter was jawing back very vicious. Sez I, ‘Who’? Sez she, ‘His granddaughter; that is Ellice’s chile’. Sez I, ‘How do you know so much’? Sez she, ‘I was darning them liberry curtains, and I couldn’t help hearing the wrangle’. Sez I, ‘You picked a oncommon handy time to tackle them curtains; they must be mighty good to cure the ear-itch’. She axed me if I didn’t see the family favor in the ‘oman’s face; and I tole her no, but I would see for myself. Sez she, to me, ‘No yow won’t, for the Gen’l is in a tearing rage, and he’s done drove her out, and kicked and slammed the doors. She’s gone.'”

“Then you did not see her?”

“I went to the front piazer, and I seen her far down the lawn, but Marster rung his bell so savage, I had to run back to him.”

“Did he tell you the prisoner was his granddaughter?”

“No, sir.”

“Did you mention the fact to him?”

“I wouldn’t ‘a dared to meddle with his fambly bizness!”

“He appeared very angry and excited?”

“He ‘peard to want some ole Conyyac what was in the sideboard, and I brung the bottle to him.”

“Do you remember whether his vault in the wall was open, when you answered the bell?”

“I didn’t notice it.”

“Where did you sleep that night?”

“On a pallet in the middle passage, nigh the star steps.”

“Was that your usual custom?”

“No, sir. But the boy what had been sleepin’ in the house while ole Marster was sick, had gone to set up with his daddy’s corpse, and I tuck his place.”

“Did you hear any unusual noise during the night?”

“Only the squalling of the pea-fowul what was oncommon oneasy, and the thunder that was ear-splitting. One clap was so tremenjous it raised me plum off’en the pallet, and jarred me to my backbone, as if a cannon had gone off close by.”

“Now, Bedney, state carefully all the circumstances under which you found your master the next morning; and remember you are on your oath, to speak the truth, and all the truth.”

“He was a early riser, and always wanted his shavin’ water promp’. When his bell didn’t ring, I thought the storm had kep’ him awake, and he was having a mornin’ nap, to make up for lost time. The clock had struck eight, and the cook said as how the steak and chops was as dry as a bone from waitin’, and so I got the water and went to Marster’s door. It was shet tight, and I knocked easy. He never answered; so I knocked louder; and thinkin’ somethin’ was shorely wrong, I opened the door–“

“Go on. What did you find?”

“Mars Alfred, sir, it’s very harryfyin to my feelins.”

“Go on. You are required to state all you saw, all you know.”

Bedney drew back his right foot, advanced his left. Took out his handkerchief, wiped his face and refolded his arms.

“My Marster was layin’ on the rug before the fireplace, and his knees was all drawed up. His right arm, was stretched out, so–and his left hand was all doubled up. I know’d he was dead, before I tetched him, for his face was set; and pinched and blue. I reckon I hollered, but I can’t say, for the next thing I knowed, the horsler and the cook, and Miss Angerline, and Dyce, my ole ‘oman, and Gord knows who all, was streamin’ in and out and screamin’.”

“What was the condition of the room?”

“The front window was up, and the blinds was flung wide open, and a cheer was upside clown close to it. The red vases what stood on the fire-place mantle was smashed on the carpet, and the handi’on was close to Marster’s right hand. The vault was open, and papers was strowed plentiful round on the floor under it. Then the neighburs and the Doctor, and the Crowner come runnin’ in, and I sot down by the bed and cried like a chile. Pretty soon they turned us all out and hilt the inquess.”

“You do not recollect any other circumstance?”

“The lamp on the table was burnin’–and ther’ wan’t much oil left in it. I seen Miss Angerline blow it out, after the Doctor come.”

“Who found the chloroform vial?”

“Don’t know.”

“Did you hear any name mentioned as that of the murderer?”

“Miss Angerline tole the Crowner, that ef the will was missin’, Gen’l Darrington’s granddaughter had stole it. They two, with some other gentleman, sarched the vault, and Miss Angerline said everything was higgledy piggledy and no will there.”

“You testified before the Coroner?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Why did you not give him the handkerchief you found?”

“I didn’t have it then.”

“When and where did you get it? Be very careful now.”

For the first time Bedney raised his eyes toward the place where Dyce sat near the prisoner, and he hesitated. He took some tobacco from his vest pocket, stowed it away in the hollow of his cheek, and re-crossed his arms.

“When Marster was dressed, and they carried him out to the drawing- room, Dyce was standin’ cryin’ by the fireplace, and I went to the bed, and put my hand under the bolster, where Marster always kep’ his watch and his pistol. The watch was ther’ but no pistol; and just sorter stuffed under the pillow case–was, a hank’cher. I tuk the watch straight to the gentlemen in the drawin’-room, and they come back and sarched for the pistol, and we foun’ it layin’ in its case in the table draw’. Of all the nights in his life, ole Marster had forgot to lay his pistol handy.”

“Never mind about the pistol. What became of the handkerchief?”

“When I picked it up, an injun-rubber stopper rolled out, and as ther’ wan’t no value in a hank’cher, I saw no harm in keepin’ it– for a’mento of ole Marster’s death.”

“You knew it was a lady’s handkerchief.”

“No, sir! I didn’t know it then; and what’s more, I don’t know it now.”

“Is not this the identical handkerchief you found?”

“Cant say. ‘Dentical is a ticklish trap for a pusson on oath. It do look like it, to be shore; but two seed in a okrey pod is ezactly alike, and one is one, and t’other is t’other.”

“Look at it. To the best of your knowledge and belief it is the identical handkerchief you found on Gen’l Darrington’s pillow?”

“What I found had red specks sewed in the border, and this seems jest like it; but I don’t sware to no dentical–’cause I means to be kereful; and I will stand to the aidge of my oath; but–Mars Alfred- -don’t shove me over it.”

“Can’t you read?”

“No, sir; I never hankered after book-larnin’ tomfoolery, and other freedom frauds.”

“You know your A B C’s?”

“No more ‘n a blind mule.”

As the solicitor took from the table in front of the jury box, the embroidered square of cambric, and held it up by two corners, every eye in the court-room fastened upon it; and a deadly faintness seized the prisoner, whitening lips that hitherto had kept their scarlet outlines.

“Gentlemen of the jury, if the murdered man could stand before you, for one instant only, his frozen finger would point to the fatal letters which destiny seems to have left as a bloody brand. Here in indelible colors are wrought ‘B. B.’!–Beryl Brentano. Do you wonder, gentlemen, that when this overwhelming evidence of her guilt came into my possession, compassion for a beautiful woman was strangled by supreme horror, in the contemplation of the depravity of a female monster? If these crimson letters were gaping wounds, could their bloody lips more solemnly accuse yonder blanched, shuddering, conscience-stricken woman of the sickening crime of murdering her aged, infirm grandfather, from whose veins she drew the red tide that now curdles at her heart?”


As the third day of the trial wore away, the dense crowd in the court-room became acquainted with the sensation of having been unjustly defrauded of the customary public peruisite; because the monotonous proceedings were entirely devoid of the spirited verbal duels, the microscopic hair splitting, the biting sarcasms of opposing counsel, the brow-beating of witnesses, the tenacious wrangling over invisible legal points, which usually vary and spice the routine and stimulate the interest of curious spectators. When a spiritless fox disdains to double, and stands waiting for the hounds, who have only to rend it, hunters feel cheated, and deem it no chase.

To the impatient spectators, it appeared a very tame, one-sided, and anomalous trial, where like a slow stream the evidences of guilt oozed, and settled about the prisoner, who challenged the credibility of no witness, and waived all the privileges of cross- examination. Now and then, the audience criticised in whispers the “undue latitude” allowed by the Judge, to the District Solicitor; but their “exceptions” were informal, and the prosecution received no serious or important rebuff.

Was the accused utterly callous, or paralyzed by consciousness of her crime; or biding her time for a dramatic outburst of vindicating testimony? To her sensitive nature, the ordeal of sitting day after day to be stared at by a curious and prejudiced public, was more torturing than the pangs of Marsyas; and she wondered whether a courageous Roman captive who was shorn of his eyelids, and set under the blistering sun of Africa, suffered any more keenly; but motionless, apparently impassive as a stone mask, on whose features pitiless storms beat in vain, she bore without wincing the agony of her humiliation. Very white and still, she sat hour by hour with downcast eyes, and folded hands; and those who watched most closely could detect only one change of position; now and then she raised her clasped hands, and rested her lips a moment on the locked fingers, then dropped them wearily on her lap.

Even when a juryman asked two searching questions of a witness, she showed no sign of perturbation, and avoided meeting the eyes in the jury-box, as though they belonged to basilisks. Was it only three days since the beginning of this excruciating martyrdom of soul; and how much longer could she endure silently, and keep her reason?

At times, Sister Serena’s hand forsook the knitting, to lay a soft, caressing touch of encouragement and sympathy on the girl’s shoulder; and Dyce’s burning indignation vented itself in frequent audible grating of her strong white teeth. So passed Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, in the examination of witnesses who recapitulated all that had been elicited at the preliminary investigation; and each nook and cranny of recollection in the mind of Anthony Burk, the station agent; of Belshazzer Tatem, the lame gardener; of lean and acrid Miss Angeline, the seamstress, was illuminated by the lurid light of Mr. Churchill’s adroit interrogation. Thus far, the prosecution had been conducted by the District Solicitor, with the occasional assistance of Mr. Wolverton, who, in conjunction with Mr. Dunbar, had appeared as representative of the Darrington estate, and its legal heir, Prince; and when court adjourned on Wednesday, the belief was generally entertained that no defence was possible; and that at the last moment, the prisoner would confess her crime, and appeal to the mercy of the jury. As the deputy sheriff led his prisoner toward the rear entrance, where stood the dismal funereal black wagon in which she was brought from prison to court, Judge Dent came quickly to meet her.

“My niece, Miss Gordon, could not, of course, come into the court- room, but she is here in the library, with her aunt, and desires to see you for a moment?”

“Tell her I am grateful for her kind motives, but I wish to see no one now.”

“For your own sake, consider the–ah! here is my niece.”

“I hope you need no verbal assurance of my deep sympathy, and my constant prayers,” said Leo, taking one passive hand between hers, and pressing it warmly.

“Miss Gordon, I am comforted by your compassion, and by your unwavering confidence in a stranger whom your townsmen hold up as a ‘female monster’. Because I so profoundly realize how good you are, I am unwilling that you should identify yourself with my hopeless cause. My sufferings will soon be over, and then I want no shadowy reflex cast upon the smiling blue sky of your future. I have nothing more to lose, save the burden of a life–that I shall be glad to lay down; but you–! Be careful, do not jeopardize your beautiful dream of happiness.”

“Why do you persist in rejecting the overtures of those who could assist, who might successfully defend you? I beg of you, consent to receive and confer with counsel, even to-night.”

“You will never understand why I must not, till the earth gives up her dead. You tremble, because only one more link can be added to the chain that is coiling about my neck, and that link is the testimony of the man whose name you expect to bear. Miss Gordon”– she stooped closer, and whispered slowly: “Do not upbraid your lover; be tender, cling to him; and afford me the consolation of knowing that the unfortunate woman you befriended, and trusted, cast not even a fleeting shadow between your heart and his. Pray for me, that I may be patient and strong. God bless you.”

Turning swiftly, she hurried on to the officer, who had courteously withdrawn a few yards distant. As he opened the door of the wagon, he handed her a loosely folded sheet of paper.

“I promised to deliver your answer as soon as possible.”

By aid of the red glow, burning low in the western sky, she read:

“Mr. Dunbar requests that for her own sake, Miss Brentano will grant him an interview this evening.”

“My answer must necessarily be verbal. Say that I will see no one.”

To the solitude and darkness of prison she fled for relief, as into some merciful sheltering arms; and not even the loving solicitude of Mrs. Singleton was permitted to penetrate her seclusion, or share her dreary vigil. Another sleepless night dragged its leaden hours to meet the dawn, bringing no rest to the desolate soul, who silently grappled with fate, while every womanly instinct shuddered at the loathsome degradation forced upon her. Face downward on her hard, narrow cot, she recalled the terrible accusations, the opprobrious epithets, and tearless, convulsive sobs of passionate protest shook her from head to foot.

Tortured with indignation and shame, at the insults heaped upon her, yet sternly resolved to endure silently, these nights were veritable stations along her Via Dolorosa; and fortified her for the daily flagellation in front of the jury-box.

On Thursday a slow, sleeting rain enveloped the world in a gray cowl, bristling with ice needles; yet when Judge Parkman took his seat at nine o’clock, there was a perceptible increase in the living mass, packed in every available inch of space.

For the first time, Mr. Dunbar’s seat between his colleagues was vacant; and Mr. Churchill and Mr. Wolverton were conversing in an animated whisper.

Clad in mourning garments, and with a long crape veil put back from her face, the prisoner was escorted to her accustomed place; and braced by a supreme effort for the critical hour, which she felt assured was at hand, her pale set features gleamed like those of a marble statue shrouded in black.

Called to the stand, Simon Frisby testified that “he was telegraph operator, and night train despatcher for railway in X–. On October the twenty-sixth, had just gone on duty at 8 P.M. at the station, when prisoner came in, and sent a telegram to New York. A copy of that message had been surrendered to the District Solicitor. Witness had remained all night in his office, which adjoined the ladies’ waiting-room, and his attention having been attracted by the unusual fact that it was left open and lighted, he had twice gone to the door and looked in, but saw no one. Thought the last inspection was about two o’clock, immediately after he had sent a message to the conductor on train No. 4. Saw prisoner when she came in, a half hour later, and heard the conversation between her and Burk, the station agent. Was very positive prisoner could not have been in the ladies’ waiting-room during the severe storm.”

Mr. Churchill read aloud the telegram addressed to Mrs. Ignace Brentano: “Complete success required delay. All will be satisfactory. Expect me Saturday. B. B.”

He commented on its ambiguous phraseology, sent the message to the jury for inspection, and resumed his chair.

“Lennox Dunbar.”

Sister Serena’s knitting fell from her fingers; Dyce groaned audibly, and Judge Dent, sitting quite near, uttered a heavy sigh. The statue throbbed into life, drew herself proudly up; and with a haughty poise of the head, her grand eloquent gray eyes looked up at the witness, and for the first time during the trial bore a challenge. For fully a moment, eye met eye, soul looked into soul, with only a few feet of space dividing prisoner from witness; and as the girl scanned the dark, resolute, sternly chiselled face, cold, yet handsome as some faultless bronze god, a singular smile unbent her frozen lips, and Judge Dent and Sister Serena wondered what the scarcely audible ejaculation meant:

“At the mercy of Tiberius!”

No faintest reflection of the fierce pain at his heart could have been discerned on that non-committal countenance; and as he turned to the jury, his swart magnetic face appeared cruelly hard, sinister.

“I first saw the prisoner at ‘Elm Bluff’, on the afternoon previous to Gen’l Darrington’s death. When I came out of the house, she was sitting bareheaded on the front steps, fanning herself with her hat, and while I was untying my horse, she followed Bedney into the library. The blinds were open and I saw her pass the window, walking in the direction of the bedroom.”

Mr. Churchill: “At that time did you suspect her relationship to your client, Gen’l Darrington?”

“I did not.”

“What was the impression left upon your mind?”

“That she was a distinguished stranger, upon some important errand.”

“She excited your suspicions at once?”

“Nothing had occurred to justify suspicion. My curiosity was aroused. Several hours later I was again at ‘Elm Bluff’ on legal business, and found Gen’l Darrington much disturbed in consequence of an interview with the prisoner, who, he informed me, was the child of his daughter, whom he had many years previous disowned and disinherited. In referring to this interview, his words were: ‘I was harsh to the girl, so harsh that she turned upon me, savage as a strong cub defending a crippled, helpless dam. Mother and daughter know now that the last card has been played; for I gave the girl distinctly to understand, that at my death Prince would inherit every iota of my estate, and that my will had been carefully written in order to cut them off without a cent.'”

“You were led to infer that Gen’l Darrington had refused her application for money?”

“There was no mention of an application for money, hence I inferred nothing.”

“During that conversation, the last which Gen’l Darrington held on earth, did he not tell you he was oppressed by an awful presentiment connected with his granddaughter?”

“His words were: ‘Somehow I am unable to get rid of the strange, disagreeable presentiment that girl let behind her as a farewell legacy. She stood there at the glass door, and raised her hand: ‘Gen’l Darrington, when you lie down to die, may God have more mercy on your poor soul, than you have shown to your suffering child.’

“I advised him to sleep off the disagreeable train of thought, and as I bade him good night, his last words were:

“‘I shall write to Prince to come home.'”

“What do you know concerning the contents of your client’s will?”

“The original will was drawn up by my father in 187-, but last May, Gen’l Darrington required me to re-write it, as he wished to increase the amount of a bequest to a certain charitable institution. The provisions of the will were, that with the exception of various specified legacies, his entire estate, real and personal, should be given to his stepson Prince; and it was carefully worded, with the avowed intention of barring all claims that might be presented by Ellice Brentano or her heirs.”

“Do you recollect any allusion to jewelry?”

“One clause of the will set aside a case of sapphire stones, with the direction that whenever Prince Darrington married, they should be worn by the lady as a bridal present from him.”

“Would you not deem it highly incompatible with all you know of the Gen’l’s relentless character, that said sapphires and money should have been given to the prisoner?”

“My surmises would be irrelevant and valueless to the Court; and facts, indisputable facts, are all that should be required of witnesses.”

“When and where did you next see the prisoner?”

Cold, crisp, carefully accentuated, his words fell like lead upon the ears of all present, whose sympathies were enlisted for the desolate woman; and as he stood, tall, graceful, with one hand thrust within his vest, the other resting easily on the back of the bench near him, his clear cut face so suggestive of metallic medallions, gave no more hint of the smouldering flame at his heart than the glittering ice crown of Eiriksjokull betrays the fierce lava tides beating beneath its frozen crust.

“At 10 o’clock on the same night, I saw the prisoner on the road leading from town to ‘Elm Bluff’, and not farther than half a mile from the cedar bridge spanning the ‘branch’, at the foot of the hill where the iron gate stands.”

“She was then going in the direction of ‘Elm Bluff?'”

“She was sitting on the ground, with her head leaning against a pine tree, but she rose as I approached.”

“As it was at night, is there a possibility of your having mistaken some one else for the prisoner?”

“None whatever. She wore no hat, and the moon shone full on her face.”

“Did you not question her about her presence there, at such an hour?”

“I asked: ‘Madam, you seem a stranger; have you lost your way?’ She answered, ‘No, sir.’ I added: ‘Pardon me, but having seen you at “Elm Bluff” this afternoon, I thought it possible you had missed the road.’ She made no reply, and I rode on to town.”

“She betrayed so much trepidation and embarrassment, that your suspicion was at once aroused?”

“She evinced neither trepidation nor embarrassment. Her manner was haughty and repellent, as though designed to rebuke impertinence. Next morning, when informed of the peculiar circumstances attending Gen’l Darrington’s death, I felt it incumbent upon me to communicate to the magistrate the facts which I have just narrated.”

“An overwhelming conviction of the prisoner’s guilt impelled you to demand her arrest?”

“Overwhelming conviction rarely results from merely circumstantial evidence, but a combination of accusing circumstances certainly pointed to the prisoner; and following their guidance, I am responsible for her arrest and detention for trial. To the scrutiny of the Court I have submitted every fact that influenced my action, and the estimate of their value decided by the jurymen, must either confirm the cogency of my reasoning, or condemn my rash fallibility. Having under oath conscientiously given all the evidence in my possession, that the prosecution would accept or desire, I now respectfully request, that unless the prisoner chooses to exercise her right of cross-examination, my colleagues of the prosecution, and his Honor, will grant me a final discharge as witness.”

Turning toward Beryl, Judge Parkman said:

“It is my duty again to remind you, that the cross-examination of witnesses is one of the most important methods of defence; as thereby inaccuracies of statement regarding time, place, etc., are often detected in criminal prosecutions, which otherwise might remain undiscovered. To this invaluable privilege of every defendant, I call your attention once more. Will you cross-question the witness on the stand?”

Involuntarily her eyes sought those of the witness, and despite his locked and guarded face, she read there an intimation that vaguely disquieted her. She knew that the battle with him must yet be fought.

“I waive the right.”

“Then, with the consent of the prosecuting counsel, witness is discharged, subject to recall should the necessities of rebuttal demand it.”

“By agreement with my colleagues, I ask for final discharge, subject to your Honor’s approval.”

“If in accordance with their wishes, the request is granted.”

The clock on the turret struck one, the hour of adjournment, and ere recess was declared, Mr. Churchill rose.

“Having now proved by trustworthy and unquestioned witnesses, a dark array of facts, which no amount of additional testimony could either strengthen, or controvert, the prosecution here rest their case before the jury for inspection; and feeling assured that only one conclusion can result, will call no other witness, unless required in rebuttal.”

Desiring to be alone, Beryl had shut out even Sister Serena, and as the officer locked her into a dark antechamber, adjoining the court- room, she began to pace the floor. One tall, narrow window, dim with inside dust, showed her through filmy cobwebs the gray veil of rain falling ceaselessly outside, darkening the day that seemed a fit type of her sombre-hued life, drawing swiftly to its close, with no hope of rift in the clouds, no possibility of sunset glow even to stain its grave. Oh! to be hidden safely in mother earth–away from the gaping crowd that thirsted for her blood!–at rest in darkness and in silence; with the maddening stings of outraged innocence and womanly delicacy stilled forever. Oh! the coveted peace of lying under the sod, with only nodding daisies, whispering grasses, crystal chimes of vernal rain, solemn fugue of wintry winds between her tired, aching eyes and the fair, eternal heavens! Harrowing days and sleepless, horror-haunted nights, invincible sappers and miners, had robbed her of strength; and the uncontrollable shivering that now and then seized her, warned her that her nerves were in revolt against the unnatural strain. The end was not far distant, she must endure a little longer; but that last battle with Mr. Dunbar? On what ground, with what weapons would he force her to fight? Kneeling in front of a wooden bench that lined one side of the room, she laid her head on the seat, covered her face with her hands, and prayed for guidance, for divine help in her hour of supreme desolation.

“God of the helpless, succor me in my need. Forbid that through weakness the sacrifice should be incomplete. Lead, sustain, fortify me with patience, that I may ransom the soul I have promised to save.”

After a time, when she resumed her walk, a strange expedient presented itself. If she sent for Mr. Dunbar, exacted an oath of secrecy, and confided the truth to his keeping, would it avail to protect her secret; would it silence him? Could she stoop so low as to throw herself upon his mercy? Therein lay the nauseous lees of her cup of humiliation; yet if she drained this last black drop, would any pledge have power to seal his lips, when he saw that she must die?

The deputy sheriff unlocked the door, and she mechanically followed him.

“I wish you would drink this glass of wine. You look so exhausted, and the air in yonder is so close, it is enough to stifle a mole. This will help to brace you up.”

“Thank you very much, but I could not take it. I can bear my wrongs even to the end, and that must be very near.”

As he ushered her into the court-room, Judge Dent met her, took her hand, and led her to the seat where Dyce and Sister Serena awaited her return.

“My poor child, be courageous now; and remember that you have some friends here, who are praying God to help and deliver you.”

“Did He deliver His own Son from the pangs of death? Pray, that I may be patient to endure.”

One swift glance, showed her that Mr. Dunbar, forsaking his former place beside the district attorney, was sitting very near, just in front of her. The jurymen filed slowly into their accustomed seats, and the judge, who had been resting his head on his hand, straightened himself, and put aside a book. There was an ominous hush pervading the dense crowd, and in that moment of silent expectancy, Beryl shut her eyes and communed with her God. Some mystical exaltation of soul removed her from the realm of nervous dread; and a peace, that this world neither gives nor takes away, settled upon her. Sister Serena untied and took off the crape veil and bonnet, and as she resumed her seat, Judge Parkman turned to the prisoner.

“In assuming the responsibility of your own defence you have adopted a line of policy which, however satisfactory to yourself, must, in the opinion of the public, have a tendency to invest your cause with peculiar peril; therefore I impress upon you the fact, that while the law holds you innocent, until twelve men agree that the evidence proves you guilty, the time has arrived when your cause depends upon your power to refute the charges, and disprove the alleged facts arrayed against you. The discovery and elucidation of Truth, is the supreme aim of a court of justice, and to its faithful ministers the defence of innocence is even more imperative than the conviction of guilt. The law is a Gibraltar, fortified and armed by the consummate wisdom of successive civilizations, as an impregnable refuge for innocence; and here, within its protecting bulwarks, as in the house of a friend, you are called on to plead your defence. You have heard the charges of the prosecution; listened to the testimony of the witnesses; and having taken your cause into your own hands, you must now stand up and defend it.”

She rose and walked a few steps closer to the jury, and for the first time during the trial, looked at them steadily. White as a statue of Purity, she stood for a moment, with her wealth of shining auburn hair coiled low on her shapely head, and waving in soft outlines around her broad full brow. Unnaturally calm, and wonderfully beautiful in that sublime surrender, which like a halo illumines the myth of Antigone, it was not strange that every heart thrilled, when upon the strained ears of the multitude fell the clear, sweet, indescribably mournful voice.

“When a magnolia blossom or a white camellia just fully open, is snatched by violent hands, bruised, crushed, blackened, scarred by rents, is it worth keeping? No power can undo the ruin, and since all that made it lovely–its stainless purity–is irrevocably destroyed, why preserve it? Such a pitiable wreck you have made of the young life I am bidden to stand up and defend. Have you left me anything to live for? Dragged by constables before prejudiced strangers, accused of awful crimes, denounced as a female monster, herded with convicts, can you imagine any reason why I should struggle to prolong a disgraced, hopelessly ruined existence? My shrivelled, mutilated life is in your hands, and if you decide to crush it quickly, you will save me much suffering; as when having, perhaps unintentionally, mangled some harmless insect, you mercifully turn back, grind it under your heel, and end its torture. My life is too wretched now to induce me to defend it, but there is something I hold far dearer, my reputation as an honorable Christian woman; something I deem most sacred of all–the unsullied purity of the name my father and mother bore. Because I am innocent of every charge made against me, I owe it to my dead, to lift their honored name out of the mire. I have pondered the testimony; and the awful mass of circumstances that have combined to accuse me, seems indeed so overwhelming, that as each witness came forward, I have asked myself, am I the victim of some baleful destiny, placed in the grooves of destroying fate-foreordained from the foundations of the world to bear the burden of another’s guilt? You have been told that I killed Gen’l Darrington, and stole his money and jewels, and destroyed his will, in order to possess his estate. Trustworthy witnesses have sworn to facts, which I cannot deny, and you believe these facts; and yet, while the snare tightens around my feet, and I believe you intend to condemn me, I stand here, and look you in the face–as one day we thirteen will surely stand at the final judgment–and in the name of the God I love, and fear, and trust, I call you each to witness, that I am innocent of every charge in the indictment. My hands are as unstained, my soul is as unsullied by theft or bloodshed, as your sinless babes cooing in their cradles.

“If you can clear your minds of the foul tenants thrust into them, try for a little while to forget all the monstrous crimes you have heard ascribed to me, and as you love your mothers, wives, daughters, go back with me, leaving prejudice behind, and listen dispassionately to my most melancholy story. The river of death rolls so close to my weary feet, that I speak as one on the brink of eternity; and as I hope to meet my God in peace, I shall tell you the truth. Sometimes it almost shakes our faith in God’s justice, when we suffer terrible consequences, solely because we did our duty; and it seems to me bitterly hard, inscrutable, that all my misfortunes should have come upon me thick and fast, simply because I obeyed my mother. You, fathers, say to your children, ‘Do this for my sake,’ and lovingly they spring to accomplish your wishes; and when they are devoured by agony, and smothered by disgrace, can you sufficiently pity them, blind artificers of their own ruin?

“Four months ago I was a very poor girl, but proud and happy, because by my own work I could support my mother and myself. Her health failed rapidly, and life hung upon an operation and certain careful subsequent treatment, which it required one hundred dollars to secure. I was competing for a prize that would lift us above want, but time pressed; the doctor urged prompt action, and my mother desired me to come South, see her father, deliver a letter and beg assistance. As long as possible, I resisted her entreaties, because I shrank from the degradation of coming as a beggar to the man who, I knew, had disinherited and disowned his daughter.

“Finally, strangling my rebellious reluctance, I accepted the bitter task. My mother kissed me good-bye, laid her hands on my head and blessed me for acceding to her wishes; and so–following the finger of Duty–I came here to be trampled, mangled, destroyed. When I arrived, I found I could catch a train going north at 7.15, and I bought a return ticket, and told the agent I intended to take that train. I walked to ‘Elm Bluff,’ and after waiting a few moments was admitted to Gen’l Darrington’s presence. The letter which I delivered was an appeal for one hundred dollars, and it was received with an outburst of wrath, a flood of fierce and bitter denunciation of my parents. The interview was indescribably painful, but toward its close, Gen’l Darrington relented. He opened his safe or vault, and took out a square tin box. Placing it on the table, he removed some papers, and counted down into my hand, five gold coins–twenty dollars each. When I turned to leave him, he called me back, gave me the morocco case, and stated that the sapphires were very costly, and could be sold for a large amount. He added, with great bitterness, that he gave them, simply because they were painful souvenirs of a past, which he was trying to forget; and that he had intended them as a bridal gift to his son Prince’s wife; but as they had been bought by my mother’s mother as a present for her only child, he would send them to their original destination, for the sake of his first wife, Helena.

“I left the room by the veranda door, because he bade me do so, to avoid what he termed ‘the prying of servants.’ I broke some clusters of chrysanthemums blooming in the rose garden, to carry to my mother, and then I hurried away. If the wages of disobedience be death, then fate reversed the mandate, and obedience exacts my life as a forfeit. Think of it: I had ample time to reach the station before seven o’clock, and if I had gone straight on, all would have been well. I should have taken the 7.15 train, and left forever this horrible place. If I had not loitered, I should have seen once more my mother’s face, have escaped shame, despair, ruin–oh! the blessedness of what ‘might have been!’

“Listen, my twelve judges, and pity the child who obeyed at all hazards. Poor though I was, I bought a small bouquet for my sick mother the day that I left her, and the last thing she did was to arrange the flowers, tie them with a wisp of faded blue ribbon, and putting them in my hand, she desired me to be sure to stop at the cemetery, find her mother’s grave in the Darrington lot, and lay the bunch of blossoms for her upon her mother’s monument. Mother’s last words were: ‘Don’t forget to kneel down and pray for me, at mother’s grave.'”

The voice so clear, so steady hitherto, quivered, ceased; and the heavy lashes drooped to hide the tears that gathered; but it was only for a few seconds, and she resumed in the same cold, distinct tone:

“So I went on, and fate tied the last millstone around my neck. After some search I found the place, and left the bunch of flowers with a few of the chrysanthemums; then I hastened toward town, and reached the station too late; the 7.15 train had gone. Too late!– only a half hour lost, but it carried down everything that this world held for me. I used to wonder and puzzle over that passage in the Bible, ‘The stars in their courses fought against Sisera!’ I have solved that mystery, for the stars in their courses’ have fought against me; heaven, earth, man, time, circumstances, coincidences, all spun the web that snared my innocent feet. When I paid for the telegram to relieve my mother’s suspense, I had not sufficient money (without using the gold) to enable me to incur hotel bills; and I asked permission to remain in the waiting-room until the next train, which was due at 3.05. The room was so close and warm I walked out, and the fresh air tempted me to remain. The moon was up, full and bright, and knowing no other street, I unconsciously followed the one I had taken in the afternoon. Very soon I reached the point near the old church where the road crosses, and I turned into it, thinking that I would enjoy one more breath of the pine forest, which was so new to me. It was so oppressively hot I sat down on the pine straw, and fanned myself with my hat. How long I remained there, I know not, for I fell asleep; and when I awoke, Mr. Dunbar rode up and asked if I had lost my way. I answered that I had not, and as soon as he galloped on, I walked back as rapidly as possible, somewhat frightened at the loneliness of my position. Already clouds were gathering, and I had been in the waiting-room, I think about an hour, when the storm broke in its fury. I had seen the telegraph operator sitting in his office, but he seemed asleep, with his head resting on the table; and during the storm I sat on the floor, in one corner of the waiting-room, and laid my head on a chair. At last, when the tempest ended, I went to sleep. During that sleep, I dreamed of my old home in Italy, of some of my dead, of my father–of gathering grapes with one I dearly loved–and suddenly some noise made me spring to my feet. I heard voices talking, and in my feverish dreamy state, there seemed a resemblance to one I knew. Only half awake, I ran out on the pavement. Whether I dreamed the whole, I cannot tell; but the conversation seemed strangely distinct; and I can never forget the words, be they real, or imaginary: “‘There ain’t no train till daylight, ‘cepting it be the through freight.’

“Then a different voice asked: ‘When it that due?'”

“‘Pretty soon I reckon, it’s mighty nigh time now, but it don’t stop here; it goes on to the water tank, where it blows for the bridge.'”

‘”How far is the bridge?'”

“‘Only a short piece down the track, after you pass the tank.'”

“When I reached the street, I saw no one but the figure of an old man, I think a negro, who was walking away. He limped and carried a bundle on the end of a stick thrown over his shoulder. I was so startled and impressed by the fancied sound of a voice once familiar to me, that I walked on down the track, but could see no one. Soon the ‘freight’ came along; I stood aside until it passed, then returned to the station, and found the agent standing in the door. When he questioned me about my movements; I deemed him impertinent; but having nothing to conceal, stated the facts I have just recapitulated. You have been told that I intentionally missed the train; that when seen at 10 P.M. in the pine woods, I was stealing back to my mother’s old home; that I entered at midnight the bedroom where her father slept, stupefied him with chloroform, broke open his vault, robbed it of money, jewels and will; and that when Gen’l Darrington awoke and attempted to rescue his property, I deliberately killed him. You are asked to believe that I am ‘the incarnate fiend’ who planned and committed that horrible crime, and, alas for me! every circumstance seems like a bloodhound to bay me. My handkerchief was found, tainted with chloroform. It was my handkerchief; but how it came there, on Gen’l Darrington’s bed, only God witnessed. I saw among the papers taken from the tin box and laid on the table, a large envelope marked in red ink, ‘Last Will and Testament of Robert Luke Darrington’; but I never saw it afterward. I was never in that room but once; and the last and only time I ever saw General Darrington was when I passed out of the glass door, and left him standing in the middle of the room, with the tin box in his hand.

“I can call no witnesses; for it is one of the terrible fatalities of my situation that I stand alone, with none to corroborate my assertions. Strange, inexplicable coincidences drag me down; not the malice of men, but the throttling grasp of circumstances. I am the victim of some diabolical fate, which only innocent blood will appease; but though I am slaughtered for crimes I did not commit, I know, oh! I know, that BEHIND FATE, STANDS GOD!–the just and eternal God, whom I trust, even in this my hour of extremest peril. Alone in the world, orphaned, reviled, wrecked for all time, without a ray of hope, I, Beryl Brentano, deny every accusation brought against me in this cruel arraignment; and I call my only witness, the righteous God above us, to hear my solemn asseveration: I am innocent of this crime; and when you judicially murder me in the name of Justice, your hands will be dyed in blood that an avenging God will one day require of you. Appearances, circumstances, coincidences of time and place, each, all, conspire to hunt me into a convict’s grave; but remember, my twelve judges, remember that a hopeless, forsaken, broken-hearted woman, expecting to die at your hands, stood before you, and pleaded first and last–Not Guilty! Not Guilty!–“

A moment she paused, then raised her arms toward heaven and added, with a sudden exultant ring in her thrilling voice, and a strange rapt splendor in her uplifted eyes:

“Innocent! Innocent! Thou God knowest! Innocent of this sin, as the angels that see Thy face.”


As a glassy summer sea suddenly quivers, heaves, billows under the strong steady pressure of a rising gale, so that human mass surged and broke in waves of audible emotion, when Beryl’s voice ceased; for the grace and beauty of a sorrowing woman hold a spell more potent than volumes of forensic eloquence, of juridic casuistry, of rhetorical pyrotechnics, and at its touch, the latent floods of pity gushed; people sprang to their feet, and somewhere in the wide auditory a woman sobbed. Habitues of a celebrated Salon des Etrangers recall the tradition of a Hungarian nobleman who, apparently calm, nonchalant, debonair, gambled desperately; “while his right hand, resting easily inside the breast of his coat, clutched and lacerated his flesh till his nails dripped with blood.” With emotions somewhat analogous, Mr. Dunbar sat as participant in this judicial rouge et noir, where the stakes were a human life, and the skeleton hand of death was already outstretched. Listening to the calm, mournful voice which alone had power to stir and thrill his pulses, he could not endure the pain of watching the exquisite face that haunted him day and night; and when he computed the chances of her conviction, a maddening perception of her danger made his brain reel.

To all of us comes a supreme hour, when realizing the adamantine limitations of human power, the “thus far, no farther” of relentless physiological, psychological and ethical statutes under which humanity lives, moves, has its being–our desperate souls break through the meshes of that pantheistic idolatry which kneels only to “Natural Laws”; and spring as suppliants to Him, who made Law possible. We take our portion of happiness and prosperity, and while it lasts we wander far, far away in the seductive land of philosophical speculation, and revel in the freedom and irresponsibility of Agnosticism; and lo! when adversity smites, and bankruptcy is upon us, we toss the husks of the “Unknowable and Unthinkable” behind us, and flee as the Prodigal who knew his father, to that God whom (in trouble) we surely know.

Certainly Lennox Dunbar was as far removed from religious tendencies as conformity to the canons of conventional morality and the habits of an honorable gentleman in good society would permit; yet to-day, in the intensity of his dread, lest the “consummate flower” of his heart’s dearest hope should be laid low in the dust, he involuntarily invoked the aid of a long-forgotten God; and through his set teeth a prayer struggled up to the throne of that divine mercy, which in sunshine we do not see, but which as the soul’s eternal lighthouse gleams, glows, beckons in the blackest night of human anguish. In boyhood, desiring to please his invalid and slowly dying mother, he had purchased and hung up opposite her bed, an illuminated copy of her favorite text; and now, by some subtle transmutation in the conservation of spiritual energy, each golden letter of that Bible text seemed emblazoned on the dusty wall of the court-room: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

When a stern reprimand from the Judge had quelled all audible expression of the compassionate sympathy that flowed at the prisoner’s story–as the flood at Horeb responded to Moses’ touch– there was a brief silence.

Mr. Dunbar rose, crossed the intervening space and stood with his hand on the back of Beryl’s chair; then moved on closer to the jury box.

“May it please your Honor, and Gentlemen of the Jury: Sometimes mistakes are crimes, and he who through unpardonable rashness commits them, should not escape ‘unwhipped of justice’. When a man in the discharge of that which he deemed a duty, becomes aware that unintentionally he has perpetrated a great wrong, can he parley with pride, or dally, because the haunting ghost of consistency waves him back from the path of a humiliating reparation? Error is easy, confession galling; and stepping down from the censor’s seat to share the mortification of the pillory, is at all times a peculiarly painful reverse; hence, powerful indeed must be the conviction which impels a man who prided himself on his legal astuteness, to come boldly into this sacred confessional of truth and justice and plead for absolution from a stupendous mistake. Two years ago, I became Gen’l Darrington’s attorney, and when his tragic death occurred in October last, my professional relations, as well as life-long friendship, incited me to the prompt apprehension of the person who had murdered him. After a careful and apparently exhaustive examination of the authenticated facts, I was convinced that they pointed only in one direction; and in that belief, I demanded and procured the arrest of the prisoner. For her imprisonment, her presence here to-day, her awful peril, I hold myself responsible; and now, gentlemen of the jury, I ask you as men having hearts of flesh, and all the honorable instincts of manhood, which alone could constitute you worthy umpires in this issue of life or death, do you, can you wonder that regret sits at my ear, chanting mournful dirges, and remorse like a harpy fastens her talons in my soul, when I tell you, that I have committed a blunder so frightful, that it borders on a crime as heinous as that for which my victim stands arraigned? Wise was the spirit of a traditional statute, which decreed that the author of a false accusation should pay the penalty designed for the accused; and just indeed would be the retribution, that imposed on me the suffering I have entailed on her.

“Acknowledging the error into which undue haste betrayed me, yet confident that divine justice, to whom I have sworn allegiance, has recalled me from a false path to one that I can now tread with absolute certainty of success, I come to-day into this, her sacred temple, lay my hand on her inviolate altar, and claiming the approval of her officiating high-priest, his Honor, appeal to you, gentlemen of the jury, to give me your hearty co-operation in my effort to repair a foul wrong, by vindicating innocence.

“Professors of ophthalmology in a diagnosis of optical diseases, tell us of a symptom of infirmity which they call pseudoblepsis, or ‘false sight.’ Legal vision exhibits, now and then, a corresponding phase of unconscious perversion of sight, whereby objects are perceived that do not exist, and objects present become transformed, distorted; and such an instance of exaggerated metamorphosia is presented to-day, in the perverted vision of the prosecution. In the incipiency of this case, prior to, and during the preliminary examination held in October last, I appeared in conjunction with Mr. Wolverton, as assistant counsel in the prosecution, represented by the Honorable Mr. Churchill, District Solicitor; the object of said prosecution being the conviction of the prisoner, who was held as guilty of Gen’l Darrington’s death. Subsequent reflection and search necessitated an abandonment of views that could alone justify such a position; and after consultation with my colleagues I withdrew; not from the prosecution of the real criminal, to the discovery and conviction of whom I shall dedicate every energy of my nature, but from the pursuit of one most unjustly accused. Anomalous as is my attitude, the dictates of conscience, reason, heart, force me into it; and because I am the implacable prosecutor of Gen’l Darrington’s murderer, _I_ COME TO PLEAD IN DEFENSE OF THE PRISONER, whom I hold guiltless of the crime, innocent of the charge in the indictment. In the supreme hour of her isolation, she has invoked only one witness; and may that witness, the God above us, the God of justice, the God of innocence, grant me the inspiration, and nerve my arm to snatch her from peril, and triumphantly vindicate the purity of her noble heart and life.”

Remembering the important evidence which he had furnished to the prosecution, only a few hours previous, when on the witness stand, people looked at one another questioningly; doubting the testimony of their own senses; and VOX POPULI was not inaptly expressed by the whispered ejaculation of Bedney to Dyce.

“Judgment day must be breaking! Mars Lennox is done turned a double summersett, and lit plum over on t’other side! It’s about ekal to a spavinned, ring-boned, hamstrung, hobbled horse clearin’ a ten-rail fence! He jumps so beautiful, I am afeered he won’t stay whar he lit!”

Comprehending all that this public recantation had cost a proud man, jealous of his reputation for professional tact and skill, as well as for individual acumen, Beryl began to realize the depth and fervor of the love that prompted it; and the merciless ordeal to which he would subject her. Inflicting upon himself the smarting sting of the keenest possible humiliation, could she hope that in the attainment of his aim he would spare her? If she threw herself even now upon his mercy, would he grant to her that which he had denied himself?

Dreading the consequences of even a moment’s delay, she rose, and a hot flush crimsoned her cheeks, as she looked up at the Judge.

“Is it my privilege to decide who shall defend me? Have I now the right to accept or reject proffered aid?”

“The law grants you that privilege; secures you that right.”

“Then I decline the services of the counsel who offers to plead in my defence. I wish no human voice raised in my behalf, and having made my statement in my own defence, I commit my cause to the hands of my God.”

For a moment her eyes dwelt upon the lawyer’s, and as she resumed her seat, she saw the spark in their blue depths leap into a flame. Advancing a few steps, his handsome face aglow, his voice rang like a bugle call:

“May it please your Honor: Anomalous conditions sanction, necessitate most anomalous procedure, where the goal sought is simple truth and justice; and since the prisoner prefers to rest her cause, I come to this bar as Amicus Curiae, and appeal for permission to plead in behalf of my clients, truth and justice, who hold me in perpetual retainment. In prosecution of the real criminal, in order to unravel the curiously knitted web, and bring the culprit to summary punishment, I ask you, gentlemen of the jury, to ponder dispassionately the theory I have now the honor to submit to your scrutiny.

“The prisoner, whom I regard as the victim of my culpable haste and deplorably distorted vision, is as innocent of Gen’l Darrington’s murder as you or I; but I charge, that while having no complicity in that awful deed, she is nevertheless perfectly aware of the name of the person who committed it. Not particeps crimmis, neither consenting to, aiding, abetting nor even acquainted with the fact of the crime, until accused of its perpetration; yet at this moment in possession of the only clue which will enable justice to seize the murderer. Conscious of her innocence, she braves peril that would chill the blood of men, and extort almost any secret; and shall I tell you the reason? Shall I give you the key to an enigma which she knows means death?

“Gentlemen of the jury, is there any sacrifice so tremendous, any anguish so keen, any shame so dreadful, any fate so overwhelmingly terrible as to transcend the endurance, or crush the power of a woman’s love? Under this invincible inspiration, when danger threatens her idol, she knows no self; disgrace, death affright her not; she extends her arms to arrest every approach, offers her own breast as a shield against darts, bullets, sword thrusts, and counts it a privilege to lay down life in defence of that idol. O! loyalty supreme, sublime, immortal! thy name is woman’s love.

“All along the march of humanity, where centuries have trailed their dust, traditions gleam like monuments to attest the victory of this immemorial potency, female fidelity; and when we of the nineteenth century seek the noblest, grandest type of merely human self- abnegation, that laid down a pure and happy life, to prolong that of a beloved object, we look back to the lovely image of that fair Greek woman, who, when the parents of the man she loved refused to give their lives to save their son, summoned death to accept her as a willing victim; and deeming it a privilege, went down triumphantly into the grave. Sustained, exalted by this most powerful passion that can animate and possess a human soul, the prisoner stands a pure, voluntary, self-devoted victim; defying the terrors of the law, consenting to condemnation–surrendering to an ignominious death, in order to save the life of the man she loves.

“Grand and beautiful as is the spectacle of her calm mournful heroism, I ask you, as men capable of appreciating her noble self- immolation, can you permit the consummation of this sacrifice? Will you, dare you, selected, appointed, dedicated by solemn oaths to administer justice, prove so recreant to your holy trust as to aid, abet, become accessories to, and responsible for the murder of the prisoner by accepting a stainless victim, to appease that violated law which only the blood of the guilty can ever satisfy?

“In order to avert so foul a blot on the escutcheon of our State judiciary, in order to protect innocence from being slaughtered, and supremely in order to track and bring to summary punishment the criminal who robbed and murdered Gen’l Darrington, I now desire, and request, that your Honor will permit me to cross-examine the prisoner on the statement she has offered in defence.”

“In making that request, counsel must be aware that it is one of the statutory provisions of safety to the accused, whom the law holds innocent until proved guilty, that no coercion can be employed to extort answers. It is, however, the desire of the court, and certainly must accrue to the benefit of the prisoner, that she should take the witness stand in her own defence.”

For a moment there was neither sound nor motion.

“Will the prisoner answer such questions as in the opinion of the court are designed solely to establish her innocence? If so, she will take the stand.”

With a sudden passionate movement at variance with her demeanor throughout the trial, she threw up her clasped hands, gazed at them, then pressed them ring downward as a seal upon her lips; and after an instant, answered slowly:

“Now and henceforth, I decline to answer any and all questions. I am innocent, entirely innocent. The burden of proof rests upon my accusers.”

As Mr. Dunbar watched her, noted the scarlet spots burning on her cheeks, the strange expression of her eyes that glowed with unnatural lustre, a scowl darkened his face; a cruel smile curved his lips, and made his teeth gleam. Was it worth while to save her against her will; to preserve the heart he coveted, for the vile miscreant to whom she had irrevocably given it? With an upward movement of his noble head, like the impatient toss of a horse intolerant of curb, he stepped back close to the girl, and stood with his hand on the back of her chair.

“In view of this palpable evasion of justice through obstinate non responsion, will it please the Court to overrule the prisoner’s objection?”

Several moments elapsed before Judge Parkman replied, and he gnawed the end of his grizzled mustache, debating the consequences of dishonoring precedent–that fetich of the Bench.

“The Court cannot so rule. The prisoner has decided upon the line of defence, as is her inalienable right; and since she persistently assumes that responsibility, the Court must sustain her decision.”

The expression of infinite and intense relief that stole over the girl’s countenance, was, noted by both judge and jury, as she sank back wearily in her chair, like one lifted from some rack of torture. Resting thus, her shoulder pressed against the hand that lay on the top of the chair, but he did not move a finger; and some magnetic influence drew her gaze to meet his. He felt the tremor that crept over her, understood the mute appeal, the prayer for forbearance that made her mournful gray eyes so eloquent, and a sinister smile distorted his handsome mouth.

“The spirit and intent of the law, the usages of criminal practice, above all, hoary precedent, before which we bow, each and all sanction your Honor’s ruling; and yet despite everything, the end I sought is already attained. Is not the refusal of the prisoner proof positive, ‘confirmation strong as proofs of Holy Writ’ of the truth of my theory? With jealous dread she seeks to lock the clue in her faithful heart, courting even the coffin, that would keep it safe through all the storms of time. Impregnable in her citadel of silence, with the cohorts of Codes to protect her from escalade and assault, will the guardians of justice have obeyed her solemn commands when they permit the prisoner to light the funeral pyre where she elects to throw herself–a vicarious sacrifice for another’s sins? For a nature so exalted, the Providence who endowed it has decreed a nobler fate; and by His help, and that of your twelve consciences, I purpose to save her from a species of suicide, and to consign to the hangman the real criminal. The evidence now submitted, will be furnished by the testimony of witnesses who, at my request, have been kept without the hearing of the Court.”

He left Beryl’s chair, and once more approached the jury,

“Isam Hornbuckle.”

A negro man, apparently sixty years old, limped into the witness stand, and having been sworn, stood leaning on his stick, staring uneasily about him.

“What is your name?”

“Isam Clay Hornbuckle.”

“Where do you live?”

“Nigh the forks of the road, close to ‘Possum Ridge.”

“How far from town?”

“By short cuts I make it about ten miles; but the gang what works the road, calls it twelve.”

“Have you a farm there?”

“Yes’ir. A pretty tolerable farm; a cornfield and potato patch and gyarden, and parsture for my horgs and oxin, and a slipe of woods for my pine knots.”

“What is your business?”

“Tryin’ to make a livin’, and it keeps me bizzy, for lans is poor, and seasons is most ginerally agin crops.”

“How long have you been farming?”

“Only sence I got mashed up more ‘an a year ago on the railroad.”

“In what capacity did you serve when working on the road?”

“I was fireman under ingeneer Walker on the lokymotive ‘Gin’l Borygyard,’ what most ginerally hauled Freight No. 2. The ingines goes now by numbers, but we ole hands called our’n always ‘Borygyard’.”

“You were crippled in a collision between two freight trains?”

“Yes’ir; but t’other train was the cause of the–“

“Never mind the cause of the accident. You moved out to ‘Possum Ridge; can you remember exactly when you were last in town?”

“To be shore! I know exactly, ’cause it was the day my ole ‘oman’s step-father’s granny’s funeral sarmont was preached; and that was on a Thursday, twenty-sixth of October, an’ I come up to ‘tend it.”

“Is it not customary to preach the funeral sermons on Sunday?”

“Most generally, Boss, it are; but you see Bre’r Green, what was to preach the ole ‘oman’s sarmont, had a big baptizin’ for two Sundays han’ runnin’, and he was gwine to Boston for a spell, on the next comin’ Saddy, so bein’ as our time belonks to us now, we was free to ‘pint a week day.”

“You are positive it was the twenty-sixth?”

“Oh, yes’ir; plum postiv. The day was norated from all the baptiss churches, so as the kinfolks could gether from fur and nigh.”

“At what hour on Thursday was the funeral sermon preached?”

“Four o’clock sharp.”

“Where did you stay while in town?”

“With my son Ducaleyon who keeps a barber-shop on Main Street.”

“When did you return home?”

“I started before day, Friday mornin’, as soon as the rain hilt up.”

“At what hour, do you think?”

“The town clock was a strikin’ two, jes as I passed the express office, at the station.”

“Now, Isam, tell the Court whom you saw, and what happened; and be very careful in all you say, remembering you are on your oath.”

“I was atoting a bundle so–slung on to a stick, and it gaided my shoulder, ’cause amongst a whole passel of plunder I had bought, ther was a bag of shot inside, what had slewed ’round oft the balance, and I sot down, close to a lamp-post nigh the station, to shift the heft of the shot bag. Whilst I were a squatting, tying up my bundle, I heered all of a suddent–somebody runnin’, brip–brap–! and up kern a man from round the corner of the stationhouse, a runnin’ full tilt; and he would a run over me, but I grabbed my bundle and riz up. Sez I: ‘Hello! what’s to pay?’ He was most out of breath, but sez he: ‘Is the train in yet?’ Sez I: ‘There ain’t no train till daylight, ‘cepting it be the through freight.’ Then he axed me: ‘When is that due?’ and I tole him: ‘Pretty soon, I reckon, but it don’t stop here; it only slows up at the water tank, whar it blows for the Bridge.’ Sez he: ‘How fur is that bridge?’ Sez I: ‘Only a short piece down the track, after you pass the tank.’ He tuck a long breath, and kinder whistled, and with that he turned and heeled it down the middle of the track. I thought it mighty curus, and my mind misgive me thar was somethin’ crooked; but I always pintedly dodges; ‘lie-lows to ketch meddlers,’ and I went on my way. When I got nigh the next corner whar I had to turn to cross the river, I looked back and I seen a ‘oman standin’ on the track, in front of the station-house; but I parsed on, and soon kem to the bridge (not the railroad bridge), Boss. I had got on the top of the hill to the left of the Pentenchry, when I hearn ole ‘Bory’ blow. You see I knowed the runnin’ of the kyars, ’cause that through freight was my ole stormpin-ground, and I love the sound of that ingine’s whistle more ‘an I do my gran’childun’s hymn chunes. She blowed long and vicious like, and I seen her sparks fly, as she lit out through town; and then I footed it home.”

“You think the train was on time?”

“Bound to be; she never was cotched behind time, not while I stuffed her with coal and lightwood knots. She was plum punctchul.”

“Was the lamp lighted where you tied your bundle?”

“Yes’ir, burnin’ bright.”

“Tell the Court the appearance of the man whom you talked with.”

Mr. Dunbar was watching the beautiful face so dear to him, and saw the prisoner lean forward, her lips parted, all her soul in the wide, glowing eyes fastened on the countenance of the witness.

“He was very tall and wiry, and ‘peared like a young man what had parstured ‘mongst wild oats. He seemed cut out for a gintleman, but run to seed too quick and turned out nigh kin to a dead beat. One- half of him was hanssum, ‘minded me mightly of that stone head with kurly hair what sets over the sody fountin in the drug store, on Main Street. Oh, yes’ir, one side was too pretty for a man; but