“Oh, it is all over—it is all over for good, Colonel. We must beg our bread, now. We never can get up again. It was our last chance, and it is gone. They will hang Laura! My God they will hang her! Nothing can save the poor girl now. Oh, I wish with all my soul they would hang me instead!”
Arrived at home, Washington fell into a chair and buried his face in his hands and gave full way to his misery. The Colonel did not know where to turn nor what to do. The servant maid knocked at the door and passed in a telegram, saying it had come while they were gone.
The Colonel tore it open and read with the voice of a man-of-war’s broadside:
“Verdict of jury, not guilty and Laura is free!”
The court room was packed on the morning on which the verdict of the jury was expected, as it had been every day of the trial, and by the same spectators, who had followed its progress with such intense interest.
There is a delicious moment of excitement which the frequenter of trials well knows, and which he would not miss for the world. It is that instant when the foreman of the jury stands up to give the verdict, and before he has opened his fateful lips.
The court assembled and waited. It was an obstinate jury.
It even had another question—this intelligent jury—to ask the judge this morning.
The question was this: “Were the doctors clear that the deceased had no disease which might soon have carried him off, if he had not been shot?” There was evidently one jury man who didn’t want to waste life, and was willing to stake a general average, as the jury always does in a civil case, deciding not according to the evidence but reaching the verdict by some occult mental process.
During the delay the spectators exhibited unexampled patience, finding amusement and relief in the slightest movements of the court, the prisoner and the lawyers. Mr. Braham divided with Laura the attention of the house. Bets were made by the Sheriff’s deputies on the verdict, with large odds in favor of a disagreement.
It was afternoon when it was announced that the jury was coming in. The reporters took their places and were all attention; the judge and lawyers were in their seats; the crowd swayed and pushed in eager expectancy, as the jury walked in and stood up in silence.
Judge. “Gentlemen, have you agreed upon your verdict?”
Foreman. “We have.”
Judge. “What is it?”
Foreman. “Not guilty.”
A shout went up from the entire room and a tumult of cheering which the court in vain attempted to quell. For a few moments all order was lost. The spectators crowded within the bar and surrounded Laura who, calmer than anyone else, was supporting her aged mother, who had almost fainted from excess of joy.