The Bread-winners eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 316 pages of information about The Bread-winners.

Maud Matchin was, however, the most important witness for the defence.  She went upon the stand troubled with no abstract principles in regard to the administration of justice.  She wanted Sam Sleeny to be set free, and she testified with an eye single to that purpose.  She was perhaps a trifle too zealous—­even the attorney for the defence bit his lip occasionally at her dashing introduction of wholly irrelevant matter in Sleeny’s favor.  But she was throughout true to herself also, and never gave the least intimation that Offitt had any right to consider himself a favored suitor.  Perhaps she had attained the talent, so common in more sophisticated circles than any with which she was familiar, of forgetting all entanglements which it is not convenient to remember, and of facing a discarded lover with a visage of insolent unconcern and a heart unstirred by a memory.

The result of it all was, of course, that Sleeny was acquitted, though it came about in a way which may be worth recording.  The jury found a verdict of “justifiable homicide,” upon which the judge very properly sent them back to their room, as the verdict was flatly against the law and the evidence.  They retired again, with stolid and unabashed patience, and soon reappeared with a verdict of acquittal, on the ground of “emotional insanity.”  But this remarkable jury determined to do nothing by halves, and fearing that the reputation of being queer might injure Sam in his business prospects, added to their verdict these thoughtful and considerate words, which yet remain on the record, to the lasting honor and glory of our system of trial by jury: 

“And we hereby state that the prisoner was perfectly sane up to the moment he committed the rash act in question, and perfectly sane the moment after, and that, in our opinion, there is no probability that the malady will ever recur.”

After this memorable deliverance, Sam shook hands cordially and gravely with each of the judicious jurymen, and then turned to where Maud was waiting for him, with a rosy and happy face and a sparkling eye.  They walked slowly homeward together through the falling shadows.

Their lives were henceforth bound together for good or evil.  We may not say how much of good or how much of evil was to be expected from a wedlock between two natures so ill-regulated and untrained, where the woman brought into the partnership the wreck of ignoble ambitions and the man the memory of a crime.



Farnham’s convalescence was rapid.  When the first danger of fever was over, the wound on the head healed quickly, and one morning Mrs. Belding came home with the news that he was to drive out that afternoon.  Alice sat in the shade by the front porch for an hour, waiting to see him pass, and when at last his carriage appeared, she rose and waved her handkerchief by way of greeting and congratulation.  He bowed as he went by, and Alice retired to her own room, where she used her handkerchief once more to dry her wet and happy eyes.

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The Bread-winners from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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