“He may still come, father,” suggested Tabitha; and more than she spent the evening in a state of expectancy. But bedtime arrived; and the morrow came and went without further news of him who had now become Janice’s sole hope, and then she learned that he had ridden northward.
“I knew his temper was hot,” she sobbed in her own room, “but never did I believe he could be so cruel as to come and go without word or sign.”
From the trial, which occurred but three days after this crushing disappointment, the public were excluded, not even Mrs. Meredith and Janice being permitted to attend. The result, therefore, was first brought them by Bagby, who, though his services had been refused by Mr. Meredith, had succeeded in being present.
“The squire’s lawyer,” he told them, “was n’t up to a trick or two that I had thought out, and which might have done something; but he made a pretty good case, if he could n’t save him. Morris’s charge was enough to convict, but every juryman was ready to vote ‘Guilty’ before the Chief Justice had so much as opened his mouth.”
“Is there nothing to do?” cried Mrs. Meredith.
“I’ll see the Governor, and I’ll get my friends to see him,” promised Bagby; “but don’t you go to raising your hopes, for there is n’t one chance in a hundred now.”
Once again Mrs. Meredith sought interview with Livingston, but the Governor refused to even see her; and both Mr. Drinker’s and Bagby’s attempts succeeded little better, for they could only report that he declined to further discuss the matter, and that the execution was set for the following Friday.
Abandoning all hope, therefore, Mrs. Meredith wrote a letter, merely begging that they might spend the last night with Mr. Meredith in the jail; and when the next morning she received a call from the Governor, she only inferred that it was in relation to her plea.
“It has been far from my wish, Mrs. Meredith,” Livingston said, “to bring suffering to you more than to any one else, and the position I have taken as regards your husband was only that which I deemed most for the good of the State, and most in accord with public opinion. The vipers of our own fireside require punishment; your husband had made himself one of the most conspicuous and unpopular of these by the office he held under the king, and no reason could I discover why he should not reap the punishment he fitly deserved. But this morning a potent one was furnished me, for I received a letter from General Washington, speaking in high terms of Mr. Meredith, and expressing a hope that we will not push his punishment to the extreme of the law. It is the first time his Excellency has ever ventured an opinion in a matter outside of his own concern, and I conclude that he believes stringent justice in this case will injure more than aid our cause; and as the use of his name furnishes me with an explanation that will satisfy the Assembly and people of this State, I can be less rigorous. That you should not endure one hour more of anxiety than need be, I have hurried to you, to tell you that I shall commute his sentence to imprisonment with the other political prisoners in Virginia.”