But the jury is now seated, and the clatter of moving feet which but a moment before filled the great room, sinks as if under a charm, and silence, that awesome precursor of doom, lay in all its weight upon every ear and heart, as the clerk advancing with the cry, “Order in the court,” put his momentous question:
“Gentlemen of the jury, are you ready with your verdict?”
A hush!—then, the clear voice of the foreman:
“How do you find? Guilty or not guilty?”
Another hesitation. Did the foreman feel the threat lurking in the air about him? If so, he failed to show it in his tones as he uttered the words which released the prisoner:
A growl from the crowd, almost like that of a beast stirring its lair, then a quick cessation of all hubbub as every one turned to the judge to whose one-sided charge they attributed this release.
Again he was a changed man. With the delivery of this verdict he had regained his natural poise, and never had he looked more authoritative or more pre-eminently the dominating spirit of the court than in the few following moments in which he expressed the thanks of the court to the jury and dismissed the prisoner. And yet, though each person there, from the disappointed prosecutor to the least aggressive spectator, appeared to feel the influence of a presence and voice difficult to duplicate on the bench of this country, Deborah experienced in her quiet corner no alleviation of the fear which had brought her into this forbidding spot and held her breathless through all these formalities.
For the end was not yet. Through all the turmoil of noisy departure and the drifting out into the square of a vast, dissatisfied throng, she had caught the flash of a bit of paper (how introduced into this moving mass of people no one ever knew) passing from hand to hand, towards the solitary figure of the judge who had not as yet left his seat.
She knew—no one better—what this meant, and instinct bade her cry out and bid those thoughtless hands to cease their work and let this letter drop. But her discretion still held, and, subduing the mad impulse, she watched with dilating eyes and heaving breast the slow passage of this fatal note through the now rapidly thinning crowd, its delay as it reached the open space between the last row of seats and the judge’s bench and its final delivery by some officious hand, who thrust it upon his notice just as he was rising to leave.
The picture he made in that instant of hesitation never left her mind. To the end of her days she will carry a vision of his tall form, imposing in his judicial robes and with the majesty of his office still upon him, fingering this envelope in sight of such persons as still lingered in his part of the room. Nemesis was lowering its black wings over his devoted head, and, with feelings which left her dazed and transfixed in silent terror, Deborah saw his finger tear its way through the envelope and his eyes fall frowningly on the paper he drew out.