“Have you—any—any children?” the judge asked, haltingly. It was a hard question to get out.
Judge Stone leaned far over the table, and that his face was purple showed Shefford he was a man. His big fist clenched.
“Girl, you’re not going to swear you, too, were visited—over there by men . . . You’re not going to swear that?”
Judge Stone settled back in his chair, and while he wiped his moist face that same foreboding murmur, almost a menace, moaned through the hall.
Shefford was sick in his soul and afraid of himself. He did not know this spirit that flamed up in him. His helplessness was a most hateful fact.
“Come—confess you are a sealed wife,” called her interrogator.
She maintained silence, but shook her head.
Suddenly he seemed to leap forward.
“Unfortunate child! Confess.”
That forced her to lift her head and face him, yet still she did not speak. It was the strength of despair. She could not endure much more.
“Who is your husband?” he thundered at her.
She rose wildly, terror-stricken. It was terror that dominated her, not of the stern judge, for she took a faltering step toward him, lifting a shaking hand, but of some one or of some thing far more terrible than any punishment she could have received in the sentence of a court. Still she was not proof against the judge’s will. She had weakened, and the terror must have been because of that weakening.
“Who is the Mormon who visits you?” he thundered, relentlessly.
“But you’d know his face. I’ll arrest every Mormon in this country and bring him before you. You’d know his face?”
“Oh, I wouldn’t. I couldn’t tell! . . . I—never—saw his face— in the light!”
The tragic beauty of her, the certainty of some monstrous crime to youth and innocence, the presence of an agony and terror that unfathomably seemed not to be for herself—these transfixed the court and the audience, and held them silenced, till she reached out blindly and then sank in a heap to the floor.
Shefford might have leaped over the railing but for Withers’s restraining hand, and when there appeared to be some sign of kindness in those other women for the unconscious girl Shefford squeezed through the crowd and got out of the hall.
The gang outside that had been denied admittance pressed upon Shefford, with jest and curious query, and a good nature that jarred upon him. He was far from gentle as he jostled off the first importuning fellows; the others, gaping at him, opened a lane for him to pass through.
Then there was a hand laid on his shoulder that he did not shake off. Nas Ta Bega loomed dark and tall beside him. Neither the trader nor Joe Lake nor any white man Shefford had met influenced him as this Navajo.