“Why did you not tell this before?” the judge asked.
“’Cos I was scared—I was,” Bob replied, in tears. “I didn’t know but that they might took and hang me for seeing it. I told mammy the other night, and mammy she came and told the gent there,” pointing one finger at the counsel for the crown, “and he said I must come and tell it here; and that’s all I’ve got to tell, and I’m werry sorry as hever I seed it, and it’s all true, s’help me!”
Sybilla Silver’s eyes fairly blazed with triumphant fire. Her master, the arch-fiend, seemed visibly coming to her aid; and the most miserable baronet pressed his hand to his throbbing head.
There was the summing up of the evidence—one damning mass against the prisoner. There was the judge’s charge to the jury. Sir Everard heard no words—saw nothing. He fell into a stunned stupor that was indeed like madness.
The jury retired—vaguely he saw them go. They returned. Was it minutes or hours they had been gone? His dulled eyes looked at them expressionless.
“How say you, gentlemen of the jury—guilty or not guilty?”
Amid dead silence the word fell. Every heart thrilled with awe but one. The condemned man sat staring at them with an awful, dull, glazed stare.
The judge arose and put on his black cap, his face white, his lips trembling.
Only the last words seemed to strike him—to crash into his whirling brain with a noise like thunder.
“And that there you be hanged by the neck until dead, and may the Lord have mercy upon your soul!”
He sat down. The awful silence was something indescribable. One or two women in the gallery fainted, then the hush was broken in a blood-curdling manner.
It was the night before the execution. In his feebly lighted cell the condemned man sat alone, trying to read by the palely glimmering lamp. The New Testament lay open before him, and on this, the last night of his life, he was reading the story of Gethsemane and Calvary. On this last night heart and soul were at rest, and an infinite calm illumined every feature.
Weeks had passed since the day when sentence of death had been pronounced upon him, and the condemned man had lain burning in the wild delirium of brain fever.
Sybilla Silver had been his most sleepless, his most devoted attendant. Her evidence had wrung his heart—had condemned him to the most shameful death man can die; but she had only told the truth, and truth is mighty and will prevail. So she came and nursed him now, forgetting to eat or sleep in her zeal and devotion, and finally wooed him back to life and reason, while those who loved him best prayed God, by night and by day, that he might die.
But, while hovering in the “Valley of the Shadow,” death had lost all its terror for him—he rose a changed man.