The exclamation escaped the lips of Deborah Scoville as she laid this clipping aside. “I remember his appearance well. He had the ghost of one of those attacks, the full force of which I was a witness to this morning. I am sure of this now, though nobody thought of it then. I happened to glance his way as I left the stand, and he was certainly for one minute without consciousness of himself or his surroundings. But it passed so quickly it drew little attention; not so, the attack of to-day. What a misfortune rests upon this man. Will they let him continue on the bench when his full condition is known?” These were her thoughts, as she recalled that day and compared it with the present.
There were other slips, which she read but which we may pass by. The fate of the prisoner was in the hands of a jury. The possibility suggested by the defence made no appeal to men who had the unfortunate prisoner under their eye at every stage of the proceedings. The shifty eye, the hang-dog look, outweighed the plea of his counsel and the call for strict impartiality from the bench. He was adjudged guilty of murder in the first degree, and sentence called for.
. . . . . . .
This was the end; and as she read these words, the horror which overwhelmed her was infinitely greater than when she heard them uttered in that fatal court room. For then she regarded him as guilty and deserving his fate and now she knew him to be innocent.
Well, well! too much dwelling on this point would only unfit her for what lay before her on the morrow. She would read no more. Sleep were a better preparation for her second interview with the judge than this reconsideration of facts already known to their last detail.
Alas, when her eyelids finally obeyed the dictates of her will, the first glimmering rays of dawn were beginning to scatter the gloom of her darkened chamber!
Bela was to be buried at four. As Judge Ostrander prepared to lock his gate behind the simple cortege which was destined to grow into a vast crowd before it reached the cemetery, he was stopped by the sergeant who whispered in his ear:
“I thought your honour might like to know that the woman—you know the one I mean without my naming her—has been amusing herself this morning in a very peculiar manner. She broke down some branches in the ravine,—small ones, of course,—and would give no account of herself when one of my men asked her what she was up to. It may mean nothing, but I thought you would like to know.”
“Have you found out who she is?”
“No, sir. The man couldn’t very well ask her to lift her veil, and at the tavern they have nothing to say about her.”
“It’s a small matter. I will see her myself today and find out what she wants of me. Meanwhile, remember that I leave this house and grounds absolutely to your protection for the next three hours. I shall be known to be absent, so that a more careful watch than ever is necessary. Not a man, boy or child is to climb the fence. I may rely on you?”