This was refused, and the case went to the jury on the seventh day—a surprisingly short trial, considering the magnitude of the crimes.
The jury disagreed. But, while they wrangled, McWhirter and I were already on the right track. At the very hour that the jurymen were being discharged and steps taken for a retrial, we had the murderer locked in my room in a cheap lodging-house off Chestnut Street.
With the submission of the case to the jury, the witnesses were given their freedom. McWhirter had taken a room for me for a day or two to give me time to look about; and, his own leave of absence from his hospital being for ten days, we had some time together.
My situation was better than it had been in the summer. I had my strength again, although the long confinement had told on me. But my position was precarious enough. I had my pay from the Ella, and nothing else. And McWhirter, with a monthly stipend from his hospital of twenty-five dollars, was not much better off.
My first evening of freedom we spent at the theater. We bought the best seats in the house, and we dressed for the occasion—being in the position of having nothing to wear between shabby everyday wear and evening clothes.
“It is by way of celebration,” Mac said, as he put a dab of shoe-blacking over a hole in his sock; “you having been restored to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That’s the game, Leslie —the pursuit of happiness.”
I was busy with a dress tie that I had washed and dried by pasting it on a mirror, an old trick of mine when funds ran low. I was trying to enter into Mac’s festive humor, but I had not reacted yet from the horrors of the past few months.
“Happiness!” I said scornfully. “Do you call this happiness?”
He put up the blacking, and, coming to me, stood eyeing me in the mirror as I arranged my necktie.
“Don’t be bitter,” he said. “Happiness was my word. The Good Man was good to you when he made you. That ought to be a source of satisfaction. And as for the girl—”
“If she could only see you now. Why in thunder didn’t you take those clothes on board? I wanted you to. Couldn’t a captain wear a dress suit on special occasions?”
“Mac,” I said gravely, “if you will think a moment, you will remember that the only special occasions on the Ella, after I took charge, were funerals. Have you sat through seven days of horrors without realizing that?”
Mac had once gone to Europe on a liner, and, having exhausted his funds, returned on a cattle-boat.
“All the captains I ever knew,” he said largely, “were a fussy lot —dressed to kill, and navigating the boat from the head of a dinner-table. But I suppose you know. I was only regretting that she hadn’t seen you the way you’re looking now. That’s all. I suppose I may regret, without hurting your feelings!”