“Wait one minute, let me speak,” he said. “I believe you are all my friends, for I have lived most of my life here, among you, and I hope I have the respect and confidence and friendship of you all. But that,” and his flashing eyes rested for a moment upon the sheriff, the lawyers, and then upon the judge, “must have no influence upon the penalty I shall pay for what I have just done. The knowledge has been bitter enough to me this afternoon that that poor boy there deserved death. For the first time I have been convinced that he was bad from the bottom of his heart, and that there was no hope for him. But with my own hand I have killed him, that he might be saved the last horror and disgrace. Let them, and the law’s justice, be my portion, for I deserve them for having given him life in the first place. Mine was the first sin, and it is right that I should suffer the disgrace and the penalty.”
He turned to the sheriff, holding out his arms for the handcuffs. “Now, I am ready. Arrest me.”
Perhaps it was a mere matter of nerves, but it seemed to me that morning that it was the cliffs of the Valley. Those mighty, overshadowing, everlasting walls and towers of the Yosemite seem to be endowed with the power to produce numberless changes of feeling.
Sometimes you gaze at them, and they lift up your spirit and hold it aloft in the free air, and send it up, and up, and up, until it reaches the very blue of heaven, and you know that you are free and powerful and ennobled, made one with the saints and mighty ones of earth.
The next morning you go forth and look up at those silent granite heights, and expect them to repeat their miracle. But they will not. They frown upon you and crush you down into the earth you are made of. Like an accusing conscience, they lift their stern, forbidding faces above you on all sides and look you steadily in the eyes with their insistence upon your unworthiness, until, in despair, you are ready to shut yourself up to escape their persecutions.
Of course, as I said before, it may not be the cliffs at all. It may be nothing but nerves. But I think it is the walls of the Valley.
On that particular morning they had made me bite the dust until I could no longer endure the sight of them. To escape their solemn, contemptuous faces I ran down a little path which led into a dense thicket of young pines and cedars. The trees grew so close together that they shut out all view of everything beyond a few feet on each side of the path. The ground was brown with their cast-off needles, and the air was pungent with their fragrance. Overhead there were glimpses of a smiling blue sky, and the cool, fragrant shadows of the thicket were brightened by patches of gleaming sunshine. The friendly sounds of woodpeckers hammering the trees, and of birds singing among the branches, pleased my ears and diverted my thoughts.