“But the courts,” I urged. “The case would not have been decided against him had there been no more to the affair than you have mentioned.”
“Colonel Ingram is leading counsel for the company. He is a shrewd lawyer.” Ernest looked at me intently for a moment, then went on. “I’ll tell you what you do, Miss Cunningham. You investigate Jackson’s case.”
“I had already determined to,” I said coldly.
“All right,” he beamed good-naturedly, “and I’ll tell you where to find him. But I tremble for you when I think of all you are to prove by Jackson’s arm.”
And so it came about that both the Bishop and I accepted Ernest’s challenges. They went away together, leaving me smarting with a sense of injustice that had been done me and my class. The man was a beast. I hated him, then, and consoled myself with the thought that his behavior was what was to be expected from a man of the working class.
Little did I dream the fateful part Jackson’s arm was to play in my life. Jackson himself did not impress me when I hunted him out. I found him in a crazy, ramshackle* house down near the bay on the edge of the marsh. Pools of stagnant water stood around the house, their surfaces covered with a green and putrid-looking scum, while the stench that arose from them was intolerable.
* An adjective descriptive of ruined and dilapidated houses in which great numbers of the working people found shelter in those days. They invariably paid rent, and, considering the value of such houses, enormous rent, to the landlords.
I found Jackson the meek and lowly man he had been described. He was making some sort of rattan-work, and he toiled on stolidly while I talked with him. But in spite of his meekness and lowliness, I fancied I caught the first note of a nascent bitterness in him when he said:
“They might a-given me a job as watchman,* anyway.”
* In those days thievery was incredibly prevalent. Everybody stole property from everybody else. The lords of society stole legally or else legalized their stealing, while the poorer classes stole illegally. Nothing was safe unless guarded. Enormous numbers of men were employed as watchmen to protect property. The houses of the well-to-do were a combination of safe deposit vault and fortress. The appropriation of the personal belongings of others by our own children of to-day is looked upon as a rudimentary survival of the theft-characteristic that in those early times was universal.
I got little out of him. He struck me as stupid, and yet the deftness with which he worked with his one hand seemed to belie his stupidity. This suggested an idea to me.
“How did you happen to get your arm caught in the machine?” I asked.
He looked at me in a slow and pondering way, and shook his head. “I don’t know. It just happened.”