“I gather that you’ve lived mostly in the country—away from people?” the judge began.
“Yes, sir,” replied the girl.
“Do you know anything about the government of the United States?”
He pondered again, evidently weighing his queries, leading up to the fatal and inevitable question.
Still, his interest in this particular defendant had become visible.
“Have you any idea of the consequences of perjury?”
“Do you understand what perjury is?”
“It’s to lie.”
“Do you tell lies?”
“Have you ever told a single lie?”
“Not—yet,” she replied, almost whispering.
It was the answer of a child and affected the judge. He fussed with his papers. Perhaps his task was not easy; certainly it was not pleasant. Then he leaned forward again and fixed those deep, cavernous eyes upon the sad face.
“Do you understand what a sealed wife is?”
“I’ve never been told.”
“But you know there are sealed wives in Utah?”
“Yes, sir; I’ve been told that.”
Judge Stone halted there, watching her. The hall was silent except for faint rustlings and here and there deep breaths drawn guardedly. The vital question hung like a sword over the white-faced girl. Perhaps she divined its impending stroke, for she sat like a stone with dilating, appealing eyes upon her executioner.
“Are you a sealed wife?” he flung at her.
She could not answer at once. She made effort, but the words would not come. He flung the question again, sternly.
“No!” she cried.
And then there was silence. That poignant word quivered in Shefford’s heart. He believed it was a lie. It seemed he would have known it if this hour was the first in which he had ever seen the girl. He heard, he felt, he sensed the fatal thing. The beautiful voice had lacked some quality before present. And the thing wanting was something subtle, an essence, a beautiful ring—the truth. What a hellish thing to make that pure girl a liar—a perjurer! The heat deep within Shefford kindled to fire.
“You are not married?” went on Judge Stone.
“No, sir,” she answered, faintly.
“Have you ever been married?”
“Do you expect ever to be married?”
“Oh! No, sir.”
She was ashen pale now, quivering all over, with her strong hands clasping the black hood, and she could no longer meet the judge’s glance.