It was the telegraph boy. The Colonel reached for the message and devoured its contents:
"I said it! Never give up the ship! The trial's, postponed till February, and we'll save the child yet. Bless my life, what lawyers they, have in New-York! Give them money to fight with; and the ghost of an excuse, and they: would manage to postpone anything in this world, unless it might be the millennium or something like that. Now for work again my boy. The trial will last to the middle of March, sure; Congress ends the fourth of March. Within three days of the end of the session they will be done putting through the preliminaries then they will be ready for national business: Our bill will go through in forty-eight hours, then, and we'll telegraph a million dollar's to the jury—to the lawyers, I mean—and the verdict of the jury will be 'Accidental murder resulting from justifiable insanity'—or something to, that effect, something to that effect.—Everything is dead sure, now. Come, what is the matter? What are you wilting down like that, for? You mustn't be a girl, you know."
"Oh, Colonel, I am become so used to troubles, so used to failures, disappointments, hard luck of all kinds, that a little good news breaks me right down. Everything has been so hopeless that now I can't stand good news at all. It is too good to be true, anyway. Don't you see how our bad luck has worked on me? My hair is getting gray, and many nights I don't sleep at all. I wish it was all over and we could rest. I wish we could lie, down and just forget everything, and let it all be just a dream that is done and can't come back to trouble us any more. I am so tired."
"Ah, poor child, don't talk like that-cheer up—there's daylight ahead. Don't give, up. You'll have Laura again, and—Louise, and your mother, and oceans and oceans of money—and then you can go away, ever so far away somewhere, if you want to, and forget all about this infernal place. And by George I'll go with you! I'll go with you—now there's my word on it. Cheer up. I'll run out and tell the friends the news."
And he wrung Washington's hand and was about to hurry away when his companion, in a burst of grateful admiration said:
"I think you are the best soul and the noblest I ever knew, Colonel Sellers! and if the people only knew you as I do, you would not be tagging around here a nameless man—you would be in Congress."
The gladness died out of the Colonel's face, and he laid his hand upon Washington's shoulder and said gravely:
"I have always been a friend of your family, Washington, and I think I have always tried to do right as between man and man, according to my lights. Now I don't think there has ever been anything in my conduct that should make you feel Justified in saying a thing like that."
He turned, then, and walked slowly out, leaving Washington abashed and somewhat bewildered. When Washington had presently got his thoughts into line again, he said to himself, "Why, honestly, I only meant to compliment him—indeed I would not have hurt him for the world."
The weeks drifted by monotonously enough, now. The "preliminaries" continued to drag along in Congress, and life was a dull suspense to Sellers and Washington, a weary waiting which might have broken their hearts, maybe, but for the relieving change which they got out of am occasional visit to New York to see Laura. Standing guard in Washington or anywhere else is not an exciting business in time of peace, but standing guard was all that the two friends had to do; all that was needed of them was that they should be on hand and ready for any emergency that might come up. There was no work to do; that was all finished; this was but the second session of the last winter's Congress, and its action on the bill could have but one result—its passage. The house must do its work over again, of course, but the same membership was there to see that it did it.—The Senate was secure—Senator Dilworthy was able to put all doubts to rest on that head. Indeed it was no secret in Washington that a two-thirds vote in the Senate was ready and waiting to be cast for the University bill as soon as it should come before that body.
Washington did not take part in the gaieties of "the season," as he had done the previous winter. He had lost his interest in such things; he was oppressed with cares, now. Senator Dilworthy said to Washington that an humble deportment, under punishment, was best, and that there was but one way in which the troubled heart might find perfect repose and peace. The suggestion found a response in Washington's breast, and the Senator saw the sign of it in his face.
From that moment one could find the youth with the Senator even oftener than with Col. Sellers. When the statesman presided at great temperance meetings, he placed Washington in the front rank of impressive dignitaries that gave tone to the occasion and pomp to the platform. His bald headed surroundings made the youth the more conspicuous.
When the statesman made remarks in these meetings, he not infrequently alluded with effect to the encouraging spectacle of one of the wealthiest and most brilliant young favorites of society forsaking the light vanities of that butterfly existence to nobly and self-sacrificingly devote his talents and his riches to the cause of saving his hapless fellow creatures from shame and misery here and eternal regret hereafter. At the prayer meetings the Senator always brought Washington up the aisle on his arm and seated him prominently; in his prayers he referred to him in the cant terms which the Senator employed, perhaps unconsciously, and mistook, maybe, for religion, and in other ways brought him into notice. He had him out at gatherings for the benefit of the negro, gatherings for the benefit of the Indian, gatherings for the benefit of the heathen in distant lands. He had him out time and again, before Sunday Schools, as an example for emulation. Upon all these occasions the Senator made casual references to many benevolent enterprises which his ardent young friend was planning against the day when the passage of the University bill should make his means available for the amelioration of the condition of the unfortunate among his fellow men of all nations and all. climes. Thus as the weeks rolled on Washington grew up, into an imposing lion once more, but a lion that roamed the peaceful fields of religion and temperance, and revisited the glittering domain of fashion no more. A great moral influence was thus brought, to bear in favor of the bill; the weightiest of friends flocked to its standard; its most energetic enemies said it was useless to fight longer; they had tacitly surrendered while as yet the day of battle was not come.
The session was drawing toward its close. Senator Dilworthy thought he would run out west and shake hands with his constituents and let them look at him. The legislature whose duty it would be to re-elect him to the United States Senate, was already in session. Mr. Dilworthy considered his re-election certain, but he was a careful, painstaking man, and if, by visiting his State he could find the opportunity to persuade a few more legislators to vote for him, he held the journey to be well worth taking. The University bill was safe, now; he could leave it without fear; it needed his presence and his watching no longer. But there was a person in his State legislature who did need watching —a person who, Senator Dilworthy said, was a narrow, grumbling, uncomfortable malcontent—a person who was stolidly opposed to reform, and progress and him,—a person who, he feared, had been bought with money to combat him, and through him the commonwealth's welfare and its politics' purity.
"If this person Noble," said Mr. Dilworthy, in a little speech at a dinner party given him by some of his admirers, "merely desired to sacrifice me.—I would willingly offer up my political life on the altar of my dear State's weal, I would be glad and grateful to do it; but when he makes of me but a cloak to hide his deeper designs, when he proposes to strike through me at the heart of my beloved State, all the lion in me is roused—and I say here I stand, solitary and alone, but unflinching, unquailing, thrice armed with my sacred trust; and whoso passes, to do evil to this fair domain that looks to me for protection, must do so over my dead body."
He further said that if this Noble were a pure man, and merely misguided, he could bear it, but that he should succeed in his wicked designs through, a base use of money would leave a blot upon his State which would work untold evil to the morals of the people, and that he would not suffer; the public morals must not be contaminated. He would seek this man Noble; he would argue, he would persuade, he would appeal to his honor.
When he arrived on the ground he found his friends unterrified; they were standing firmly by him and were full of courage. Noble was working hard, too, but matters were against him, he was not making much progress. Mr. Dilworthy took an early opportunity to send for Mr. Noble; he had a midnight interview with him, and urged him to forsake his evil ways; he begged him to come again and again, which he did. He finally sent the man away at 3 o'clock one morning; and when he was gone, Mr. Dilworthy said to himself,
"I feel a good deal relieved, now, a great deal relieved."
The Senator now turned his attention to matters touching the souls of his people. He appeared in church; he took a leading part in prayer meetings; he met and encouraged the temperance societies; he graced the sewing circles of the ladies with his presence, and even took a needle now and then and made a stitch or two upon a calico shirt for some poor Bibleless pagan of the South Seas, and this act enchanted the ladies, who regarded the garments thus honored as in a manner sanctified. The Senator wrought in Bible classes, and nothing could keep him away from the Sunday Schools—neither sickness nor storms nor weariness. He even traveled a tedious thirty miles in a poor little rickety stagecoach to comply with the desire of the miserable hamlet of Cattleville that he would let its Sunday School look upon him.
All the town was assembled at the stage office when he arrived, two bonfires were burning, and a battery of anvils was popping exultant broadsides; for a United States Senator was a sort of god in the understanding of these people who never had seen any creature mightier than a county judge. To them a United States Senator was a vast, vague colossus, an awe inspiring unreality.
Next day everybody was at the village church a full half hour before time for Sunday School to open; ranchmen and farmers had come with their families from five miles around, all eager to get a glimpse of the great man—the man who had been to Washington; the man who had seen the President of the United States, and had even talked with him; the man who had seen the actual Washington Monument—perhaps touched it with his hands.
When the Senator arrived the Church was crowded, the windows were full, the aisles were packed, so was the vestibule, and so indeed was the yard in front of the building. As he worked his way through to the pulpit on the arm of the minister and followed by the envied officials of the village, every neck was stretched and, every eye twisted around intervening obstructions to get a glimpse. Elderly people directed each other's attention and, said, "There! that's him, with the grand, noble forehead!" Boys nudged each other and said, "Hi, Johnny, here he is, there, that's him, with the peeled head!"
The Senator took his seat in the pulpit, with the minister' on one side of him and the Superintendent of the Sunday School on the other. The town dignitaries sat in an impressive row within the altar railings below. The Sunday School children occupied ten of the front benches. dressed in their best and most uncomfortable clothes, and with hair combed and faces too clean to feel natural. So awed were they by the presence of a living United States Senator, that during three minutes not a "spit ball" was thrown. After that they began to come to themselves by degrees, and presently the spell was wholly gone and they were reciting verses and pulling hair.
The usual Sunday School exercises were hurried through, and then the minister, got up and bored the house with a speech built on the customary Sunday School plan; then the Superintendent put in his oar; then the town dignitaries had their say. They all made complimentary reference to "their friend the Senator," and told what a great and illustrious man he was and what he had done for his country and for religion and temperance, and exhorted the little boys to be good and diligent and try to become like him some day. The speakers won the deathless hatred of the house by these delays, but at last there was an end and hope revived; inspiration was about to find utterance.
Senator Dilworthy rose and beamed upon the assemblage for a full minute in silence. Then he smiled with an access of sweetness upon the children and began:
"My little friends—for I hope that all these bright-faced little people are my friends and will let me be their friend—my little friends, I have traveled much, I have been in many cities and many States, everywhere in our great and noble country, and by the blessing of Providence I have been permitted to see many gatherings like this—but I am proud, I am truly proud to say that I never have looked upon so much intelligence, so much grace, such sweetness of disposition as I see in the charming young countenances I see before me at this moment. I have been asking myself as I sat here, Where am I? Am I in some far-off monarchy, looking upon little princes and princesses? No. Am I in some populous centre of my own country, where the choicest children of the land have been selected and brought together as at a fair for a prize? No. Am I in some strange foreign clime where the children are marvels that we know not of? No. Then where am I? Yes—where am I? I am in a simple, remote, unpretending settlement of my own dear State, and these are the children of the noble and virtuous men who have made me what I am! My soul is lost in wonder at the thought! And I humbly thank Him to whom we are but as worms of the dust, that he has been pleased to call me to serve such men! Earth has no higher, no grander position for me. Let kings and emperors keep their tinsel crowns, I want them not; my heart is here!
"Again I thought, Is this a theatre? No. Is it a concert or a gilded opera? No. Is it some other vain, brilliant, beautiful temple of soul-staining amusement and hilarity? No. Then what is it? What did my consciousness reply? I ask you, my little friends, What did my consciousness reply? It replied, It is the temple of the Lord! Ah, think of that, now. I could hardly keep the tears back, I was so grateful. Oh, how beautiful it is to see these ranks of sunny little faces assembled here to learn the way of life; to learn to be good; to learn to be useful; to learn to be pious; to learn to be great and glorious men and women; to learn to be props and pillars of the State and shining lights in the councils and the households of the nation; to be bearers of the banner and soldiers of the cross in the rude campaigns of life, and raptured souls in the happy fields of Paradise hereafter.
"Children, honor your parents and be grateful to them for providing for you the precious privileges of a Sunday School.
"Now my dear little friends, sit up straight and pretty—there, that's it—and give me your attention and let me tell you about a poor little Sunday School scholar I once knew.—He lived in the far west, and his parents were poor. They could not give him a costly education; but they were good and wise and they sent him to the Sunday School. He loved the Sunday School. I hope you love your Sunday School—ah, I see by your faces that you do! That is right!
"Well, this poor little boy was always in his place when the bell rang, and he always knew his lesson; for his teachers wanted him to learn and he loved his teachers dearly. Always love your teachers, my children, for they love you more than you can know, now. He would not let bad boys persuade him to go to play on Sunday. There was one little bad boy who was always trying to persuade him, but he never could.
"So this poor little boy grew up to be a man, and had to go out in the world, far from home and friends to earn his living. Temptations lay all about him, and sometimes he was about to yield, but he would think of some precious lesson he learned in his Sunday School a long time ago, and that would save him. By and by he was elected to the legislature—Then he did everything he could for Sunday Schools. He got laws passed for them; he got Sunday Schools established wherever he could.
"And by and by the people made him governor—and he said it was all owing to the Sunday School.
"After a while the people elected him a Representative to the Congress of the United States, and he grew very famous.—Now temptations assailed him on every hand. People tried to get him to drink wine; to dance, to go to theatres; they even tried to buy his vote; but no, the memory of his Sunday School saved him from all harm; he remembered the fate of the bad little boy who used to try to get him to play on Sunday, and who grew up and became a drunkard and was hanged. He remembered that, and was glad he never yielded and played on Sunday.
"Well, at last, what do you think happened? Why the people gave him a towering, illustrious position, a grand, imposing position. And what do you think it was? What should you say it was, children? It was Senator of the United States! That poor little boy that loved his Sunday School became that man. That man stands before you! All that he is, he owes to the Sunday School.
"My precious children, love your parents, love your teachers, love your Sunday School, be pious, be obedient, be honest, be diligent, and then you will succeed in life and be honored of all men. Above all things, my children, be honest. Above all things be pure-minded as the snow. Let us join in prayer."
When Senator Dilworthy departed from Cattleville, he left three dozen boys behind him arranging a campaign of life whose objective point was the United States Senate.
When he arrived at the State capital at midnight Mr. Noble came and held a three-hours' conference with him, and then as he was about leaving said:
"I've worked hard, and I've got them at last. Six of them haven't got quite back-bone enough to slew around and come right out for you on the first ballot to-morrow; but they're going to vote against you on the first for the sake of appearances, and then come out for you all in a body on the second—I've fixed all that! By supper time to-morrow you'll be re-elected. You can go to bed and sleep easy on that."
After Mr. Noble was gone, the Senator said:
"Well, to bring about a complexion of things like this was worth coming West for."
The case of the State of New York against Laura Hawkins was finally set down for trial on the 15th day of February, less than a year after the shooting of George Selby.
If the public had almost forgotten the existence of Laura and her crime, they were reminded of all the details of the murder by the newspapers, which for some days had been announcing the approaching trial. But they had not forgotten. The sex, the age, the beauty of the prisoner; her high social position in Washington, the unparalleled calmness with which the crime was committed had all conspired to fix the event in the public mind, although nearly three hundred and sixty-five subsequent murders had occurred to vary the monotony of metropolitan life.
No, the public read from time to time of the lovely prisoner, languishing in the city prison, the tortured victim of the law's delay; and as the months went by it was natural that the horror of her crime should become a little indistinct in memory, while the heroine of it should be invested with a sort of sentimental interest. Perhaps her counsel had calculated on this. Perhaps it was by their advice that Laura had interested herself in the unfortunate criminals who shared her prison confinement, and had done not a little to relieve, from her own purse, the necessities of some of the poor creatures. That she had done this, the public read in the journals of the day, and the simple announcement cast a softening light upon her character.
The court room was crowded at an early hour, before the arrival of judges, lawyers and prisoner. There is no enjoyment so keen to certain minds as that of looking upon the slow torture of a human being on trial for life, except it be an execution; there is no display of human ingenuity, wit and power so fascinating as that made by trained lawyers in the trial of an important case, nowhere else is exhibited such subtlety, acumen, address, eloquence.
All the conditions of intense excitement meet in a murder trial. The awful issue at stake gives significance to the lightest word or look. How the quick eyes of the spectators rove from the stolid jury to the keen lawyers, the impassive judge, the anxious prisoner. Nothing is lost of the sharp wrangle of the counsel on points of law, the measured decision's of the bench; the duels between the attorneys and the witnesses. The crowd sways with the rise and fall of the shifting, testimony, in sympathetic interest, and hangs upon the dicta of the judge in breathless silence. It speedily takes sides for or against the accused, and recognizes as quickly its favorites among the lawyers. Nothing delights it more than the sharp retort of a witness and the discomfiture of an obnoxious attorney. A joke, even if it be a lame, one, is no where so keenly relished or quickly applauded as in a murder trial.
Within the bar the young lawyers and the privileged hangers-on filled all the chairs except those reserved at the table for those engaged in the case. Without, the throng occupied all the seats, the window ledges and the standing room. The atmosphere was already something horrible. It was the peculiar odor of a criminal court, as if it were tainted by the presence, in different persons, of all the crimes that men and women can commit.
There was a little stir when the Prosecuting Attorney, with two assistants, made his way in, seated himself at the table, and spread his papers before him. There was more stir when the counsel of the defense appeared. They were Mr. Braham, the senior, and Mr. Quiggle and Mr. O'Keefe, the juniors.
Everybody in the court room knew Mr. Braham, the great criminal lawyer, and he was not unaware that he was the object of all eyes as he moved to his place, bowing to his friends in the bar. A large but rather spare man, with broad shoulders and a massive head, covered with chestnut curls which fell down upon his coat collar and which he had a habit of shaking as a lion is supposed to shake his mane. His face was clean shaven, and he had a wide mouth and rather small dark eyes, set quite too near together: Mr. Braham wore a brown frock coat buttoned across his breast, with a rose-bud in the upper buttonhole, and light pantaloons. A diamond stud was seen to flash from his bosom; and as he seated himself and drew off his gloves a heavy seal ring was displayed upon his white left hand. Mr. Braham having seated himself, deliberately surveyed the entire house, made a remark to one of his assistants, and then taking an ivory-handled knife from his pocket began to pare his finger nails, rocking his chair backwards and forwards slowly.
A moment later Judge O'Shaunnessy entered at the rear door and took his seat in one of the chairs behind the bench; a gentleman in black broadcloth, with sandy hair, inclined to curl, a round; reddish and rather jovial face, sharp rather than intellectual, and with a self-sufficient air. His career had nothing remarkable in it. He was descended from a long line of Irish Kings, and he was the first one of them who had ever come into his kingdom—the kingdom of such being the city of New York. He had, in fact, descended so far and so low that he found himself, when a boy, a sort of street Arab in that city; but he had ambition and native shrewdness, and he speedily took to boot-polishing, and newspaper hawking, became the office and errand boy of a law firm, picked up knowledge enough to get some employment in police courts, was admitted to the bar, became a rising young politician, went to the legislature, and was finally elected to the bench which he now honored. In this democratic country he was obliged to conceal his royalty under a plebeian aspect. Judge O'Shaunnessy never had a lucrative practice nor a large salary but he had prudently laid away money-believing that a dependant judge can never be impartial—and he had lands and houses to the value of three or four hundred thousand dollars. Had he not helped to build and furnish this very Court House? Did he not know that the very "spittoon" which his judgeship used cost the city the sum of one thousand dollars?
As soon as the judge was seated, the court was opened with the "oi yis, oi yis" of the officer in his native language, the case called, and the sheriff was directed to bring in the prisoner. In the midst of a profound hush Laura entered, leaning on the arm of the officer, and was conducted to a seat by her counsel. She was followed by her mother and by Washington Hawkins, who were given seats near her.
Laura was very pale, but this pallor heightened the lustre of her large eyes and gave a touching sadness to her expressive face. She was dressed in simple black, with exquisite taste, and without an ornament. The thin lace vail which partially covered her face did not so much conceal as heighten her beauty. She would not have entered a drawing room with more self-poise, nor a church with more haughty humility. There was in her manner or face neither shame nor boldness, and when she took her seat in fall view of half the spectators, her eyes were downcast. A murmur of admiration ran through the room. The newspaper reporters made their pencils fly. Mr. Braham again swept his eyes over the house as if in approval. When Laura at length raised her eyes a little, she saw Philip and Harry within the bar, but she gave no token of recognition.
The clerk then read the indictment, which was in the usual form. It charged Laura Hawkins, in effect, with the premeditated murder of George Selby, by shooting him with a pistol, with a revolver, shotgun, rifle, repeater, breech-loader, cannon, six-shooter, with a gun, or some other, weapon; with killing him with a slung-shot, a bludgeon, carving knife, bowie knife, pen knife, rolling pin, car, hook, dagger, hair pin, with a hammer, with a screw-driver; with a nail, and with all other weapons and utensils whatsoever, at the Southern hotel and in all other hotels and places wheresoever, on the thirteenth day of March and all other days of the Christian era wheresoever.
Laura stood while the long indictment was read; and at the end, in response to the inquiry, of the judge, she said in a clear, low voice; "Not guilty." She sat down and the court proceeded to impanel a jury.
The first man called was Michael Lanigan, saloon keeper.
"Have you formed or expressed any opinion on this case, and do you know any of the parties?"
"Not any," said Mr. Lanigan.
"Have you any conscientious objections to capital punishment?"
"No, sir, not to my knowledge."
"Have you read anything about this case?"
"To be sure, I read the papers, y'r Honor."
Objected to by Mr. Braham, for cause, and discharged.
"What is your business?"
"Well—I haven't got any particular business."
"Haven't any particular business, eh? Well, what's your general business? What do you do for a living?"
"I own some terriers, sir."
"Own some terriers, eh? Keep a rat pit?"
"Gentlemen comes there to have a little sport. I never fit 'em, sir."
"Oh, I see—you are probably the amusement committee of the city council. Have you ever heard of this case?"
"Not till this morning, sir."
"Can you read?"
"Not fine print, y'r Honor."
The man was about to be sworn, when Mr. Braham asked,
"Could your father read?"
"The old gentleman was mighty handy at that, sir."
Mr. Braham submitted that the man was disqualified Judge thought not. Point argued. Challenged peremptorily, and set aside.
Ethan Dobb, cart-driver.
"Can you read?"
"Yes, but haven't a habit of it."
"Have you heard of this case?"
"I think so—but it might be another. I have no opinion about it."
Dist. A. "Tha—tha—there! Hold on a bit? Did anybody tell you to say you had no opinion about it?"
"Take care now, take care. Then what suggested it to you to volunteer that remark?"
"They've always asked that, when I was on juries."
"All right, then. Have you any conscientious scruples about capital punishment?"
"Would you object to finding a person guilty—of murder on evidence?"
"I might, sir, if I thought he wan't guilty."
The district attorney thought he saw a point.
"Would this feeling rather incline you against a capital conviction?"
The juror said he hadn't any feeling, and didn't know any of the parties. Accepted and sworn.
Dennis Lafin, laborer. Have neither formed nor expressed an opinion. Never had heard of the case. Believed in hangin' for them that deserved it. Could read if it was necessary.
Mr. Braham objected. The man was evidently bloody minded. Challenged peremptorily.
Larry O'Toole, contractor. A showily dressed man of the style known as "vulgar genteel," had a sharp eye and a ready tongue. Had read the newspaper reports of the case, but they made no impression on him. Should be governed by the evidence. Knew no reason why he could not be an impartial juror.
Question by District Attorney.
"How is it that the reports made no impression on you?"
"Never believe anything I see in the newspapers."
(Laughter from the crowd, approving smiles from his Honor and Mr. Braham.) Juror sworn in. Mr. Braham whispered to O'Keefe, "that's the man."
Avery Hicks, pea-nut peddler. Did he ever hear of this case? The man shook his head.
"Can you read?"
"No." "Any scruples about capital punishment?"
He was about to be sworn, when the district attorney turning to him carelessly, remarked,
"Understand the nature of an oath?"
"Outside," said the man, pointing to the door.
"I say, do you know what an oath is?"
"Five cents," explained the man.
"Do you mean to insult me?" roared the prosecuting officer. "Are you an idiot?"
"Fresh baked. I'm deefe. I don't hear a word you say."
The man was discharged. "He wouldn't have made a bad juror, though," whispered Braham. "I saw him looking at the prisoner sympathizingly. That's a point you want to watch for."
The result of the whole day's work was the selection of only two jurors. These however were satisfactory to Mr. Braham. He had kept off all those he did not know. No one knew better than this great criminal lawyer that the battle was fought on the selection of the jury. The subsequent examination of witnesses, the eloquence expended on the jury are all for effect outside. At least that is the theory of Mr. Braham. But human nature is a queer thing, he admits; sometimes jurors are unaccountably swayed, be as careful as you can in choosing them.
It was four weary days before this jury was made up, but when it was finally complete, it did great credit to the counsel for the defence. So far as Mr. Braham knew, only two could read, one of whom was the foreman, Mr. Braham's friend, the showy contractor. Low foreheads and heavy faces they all had; some had a look of animal cunning, while the most were only stupid. The entire panel formed that boasted heritage commonly described as the "bulwark of our liberties."
The District Attorney, Mr. McFlinn, opened the case for the state. He spoke with only the slightest accent, one that had been inherited but not cultivated. He contented himself with a brief statement of the case. The state would prove that Laura Hawkins, the prisoner at the bar, a fiend in the form of a beautiful woman, shot dead George Selby, a Southern gentleman, at the time and place described. That the murder was in cold blood, deliberate and without provocation; that it had been long premeditated and threatened; that she had followed the deceased from Washington to commit it. All this would be proved by unimpeachable witnesses. The attorney added that the duty of the jury, however painful it might be, would be plain and simple. They were citizens, husbands, perhaps fathers. They knew how insecure life had become in the metropolis. Tomorrow our own wives might be widows, their own children orphans, like the bereaved family in yonder hotel, deprived of husband and father by the jealous hand of some murderous female. The attorney sat down, and the clerk called?
Henry Brierly took the stand. Requested by the District Attorney to tell the jury all he knew about the killing, he narrated the circumstances substantially as the reader already knows them.
He accompanied Miss Hawkins to New York at her request, supposing she was coming in relation to a bill then pending in Congress, to secure the attendance of absent members. Her note to him was here shown. She appeared to be very much excited at the Washington station. After she had asked the conductor several questions, he heard her say, "He can't escape." Witness asked her "Who?" and she replied "Nobody." Did not see her during the night. They traveled in a sleeping car. In the morning she appeared not to have slept, said she had a headache. In crossing the ferry she asked him about the shipping in sight; he pointed out where the Cunarders lay when in port. They took a cup of coffee that morning at a restaurant. She said she was anxious to reach the Southern Hotel where Mr. Simons, one of the absent members, was staying, before he went out. She was entirely self-possessed, and beyond unusual excitement did not act unnaturally. After she had fired twice at Col. Selby, she turned the pistol towards her own breast, and witness snatched it from her. She had seen a great deal with Selby in Washington, appeared to be infatuated with him.
(Cross-examined by Mr. Braham.) "Mist-er.....er Brierly!" (Mr. Braham had in perfection this lawyer's trick of annoying a witness, by drawling out the "Mister," as if unable to recall the name, until the witness is sufficiently aggravated, and then suddenly, with a rising inflection, flinging his name at him with startling unexpectedness.) "Mist-er.....er Brierly! What is your occupation?"
"Civil Engineer, sir."
"Ah, civil engineer, (with a glance at the jury). Following that occupation with Miss Hawkins?" (Smiles by the jury).
"No, sir," said Harry, reddening.
"How long have you known the prisoner?"
"Two years, sir. I made her acquaintance in Hawkeye, Missouri."
"M.....m...m. Mist-er.....er Brierly! Were you not a lover of Miss Hawkins?"
Objected to. "I submit, your Honor, that I have the right to establish the relation of this unwilling witness to the prisoner." Admitted.
"Well, sir," said Harry hesitatingly, "we were friends."
"You act like a friend!" (sarcastically.) The jury were beginning to hate this neatly dressed young sprig. "Mister......er....Brierly! Didn't Miss Hawkins refuse you?"
Harry blushed and stammered and looked at the judge. "You must answer, sir," said His Honor.
"She—she—didn't accept me."
"No. I should think not. Brierly do you dare tell the jury that you had not an interest in the removal of your rival, Col. Selby?" roared Mr. Braham in a voice of thunder.
"Nothing like this, sir, nothing like this," protested the witness.
"That's all, sir," said Mr. Braham severely.
"One word," said the District Attorney. "Had you the least suspicion of the prisoner's intention, up to the moment of the shooting?"
"Not the least," answered Harry earnestly.
"Of course not, of course-not," nodded Mr. Braham to the jury.
The prosecution then put upon the stand the other witnesses of the shooting at the hotel, and the clerk and the attending physicians. The fact of the homicide was clearly established. Nothing new was elicited, except from the clerk, in reply to a question by Mr. Braham, the fact that when the prisoner enquired for Col. Selby she appeared excited and there was a wild look in her eyes.
The dying deposition of Col. Selby was then produced. It set forth Laura's threats, but there was a significant addition to it, which the newspaper report did not have. It seemed that after the deposition was taken as reported, the Colonel was told for the first time by his physicians that his wounds were mortal. He appeared to be in great mental agony and fear; and said he had not finished his deposition. He added, with great difficulty and long pauses these words. "I—have —not—told—all. I must tell—put—it—down—I—wronged—her. Years —ago—I—can't see—O—God—I—deserved——" That was all. He fainted and did not revive again.
The Washington railway conductor testified that the prisoner had asked him if a gentleman and his family went out on the evening train, describing the persons he had since learned were Col. Selby and family.
Susan Cullum, colored servant at Senator Dilworthy's, was sworn. Knew Col. Selby. Had seen him come to the house often, and be alone in the parlor with Miss Hawkins. He came the day but one before he was shot. She let him in. He appeared flustered like. She heard talking in the parlor, I peared like it was quarrelin'. Was afeared sumfin' was wrong: Just put her ear to—the—keyhole of the back parlor-door. Heard a man's voice, "I—can't—I can't, Good God," quite beggin' like. Heard—young Miss' voice, "Take your choice, then. If you 'bandon me, you knows what to 'spect." Then he rushes outen the house, I goes in—and I says, "Missis did you ring?" She was a standin' like a tiger, her eyes flashin'. I come right out.
This was the substance of Susan's testimony, which was not shaken in the least by severe cross-examination. In reply to Mr. Braham's question, if the prisoner did not look insane, Susan said, "Lord; no, sir, just mad as a hawnet."
Washington Hawkins was sworn. The pistol, identified by the officer as the one used in the homicide, was produced Washington admitted that it was his. She had asked him for it one morning, saying she thought she had heard burglars the night before. Admitted that he never had heard burglars in the house. Had anything unusual happened just before that.
Nothing that he remembered. Did he accompany her to a reception at Mrs. Shoonmaker's a day or two before? Yes. What occurred? Little by little it was dragged out of the witness that Laura had behaved strangely there, appeared to be sick, and he had taken her home. Upon being pushed he admitted that she had afterwards confessed that she saw Selby there. And Washington volunteered the statement that Selby, was a black-hearted villain.
The District Attorney said, with some annoyance; "There—there! That will do."
The defence declined to examine Mr. Hawkins at present. The case for the prosecution was closed. Of the murder there could not be the least doubt, or that the prisoner followed the deceased to New York with a murderous intent: On the evidence the jury must convict, and might do so without leaving their seats. This was the condition of the case two days after the jury had been selected. A week had passed since the trial opened; and a Sunday had intervened.
The public who read the reports of the evidence saw no chance for the prisoner's escape. The crowd of spectators who had watched the trial were moved with the most profound sympathy for Laura.
Mr. Braham opened the case for the defence. His manner was subdued, and he spoke in so low a voice that it was only by reason of perfect silence in the court room that he could be heard. He spoke very distinctly, however, and if his nationality could be discovered in his speech it was only in a certain richness and breadth of tone.
He began by saying that he trembled at the responsibility he had undertaken; and he should, altogether despair, if he did not see before him a jury of twelve men of rare intelligence, whose acute minds would unravel all the sophistries of the prosecution, men with a sense, of honor, which would revolt at the remorseless persecution of this hunted woman by the state, men with hearts to feel for the wrongs of which she was the victim. Far be it from him to cast any suspicion upon the motives of the able, eloquent and ingenious lawyers of the state; they act officially; their business is to convict. It is our business, gentlemen, to see that justice is done.
"It is my duty, gentlemen, to untold to you one of the most affecting dramas in all, the history of misfortune. I shall have to show you a life, the sport of fate and circumstances, hurried along through shifting storm and sun, bright with trusting innocence and anon black with heartless villainy, a career which moves on in love and desertion and anguish, always hovered over by the dark spectre of INSANITY—an insanity hereditary and induced by mental torture,—until it ends, if end it must in your verdict, by one of those fearful accidents, which are inscrutable to men and of which God alone knows the secret.
"Gentlemen, I, shall ask you to go with me away from this court room and its minions of the law, away from the scene of this tragedy, to a distant, I wish I could say a happier day. The story I have to tell is of a lovely little girl, with sunny hair and laughing eyes, traveling with her parents, evidently people of wealth and refinement, upon a Mississippi steamboat. There is an explosion, one of those terrible catastrophes which leave the imprint of an unsettled mind upon the survivors. Hundreds of mangled remains are sent into eternity. When the wreck is cleared away this sweet little girl is found among the panic stricken survivors in the midst of a scene of horror enough to turn the steadiest brain. Her parents have disappeared. Search even for their bodies is in vain. The bewildered, stricken child—who can say what changes the fearful event wrought in her tender brain—clings to the first person who shows her sympathy. It is Mrs. Hawkins, this good lady who is still her loving friend. Laura is adopted into the Hawkins family. Perhaps she forgets in time that she is not their child. She is an orphan. No, gentlemen, I will not deceive you, she is not an orphan. Worse than that. There comes another day of agony. She knows that her father lives. Who is he, where is he? Alas, I cannot tell you. Through the scenes of this painful history he flits here and there a lunatic! If he, seeks his daughter, it is the purposeless search of a lunatic, as one who wanders bereft of reason, crying where is my child? Laura seeks her father. In vain just as she is about to find him, again and again-he disappears, he is gone, he vanishes.
"But this is only the prologue to the tragedy. Bear with me while I relate it. (Mr. Braham takes out a handkerchief, unfolds it slowly; crashes it in his nervous hand, and throws it on the table). Laura grew up in her humble southern home, a beautiful creature, the joy, of the house, the pride of the neighborhood, the loveliest flower in all the sunny south. She might yet have been happy; she was happy. But the destroyer came into this paradise. He plucked the sweetest bud that grew there, and having enjoyed its odor, trampled it in the mire beneath his feet. George Selby, the deceased, a handsome, accomplished Confederate Colonel, was this human fiend. He deceived her with a mock marriage; after some months he brutally, abandoned her, and spurned her as if she were a contemptible thing; all the time he had a wife in New Orleans. Laura was crushed. For weeks, as I shall show you by the testimony of her adopted mother and brother, she hovered over death in delirium. Gentlemen, did she ever emerge from this delirium? I shall show you that when she recovered her health, her mind was changed, she was not what she had been. You can judge yourselves whether the tottering reason ever recovered its throne.
"Years pass. She is in Washington, apparently the happy favorite of a brilliant society. Her family have become enormously rich by one of those sudden turns, in fortune that the inhabitants of America are familiar with—the discovery of immense mineral wealth in some wild lands owned by them. She is engaged in a vast philanthropic scheme for the benefit of the poor, by, the use of this wealth. But, alas, even here and now, the same, relentless fate pursued her. The villain Selby appears again upon the scene, as if on purpose to complete the ruin of her life. He appeared to taunt her with her dishonor, he threatened exposure if she did not become again the mistress of his passion. Gentlemen, do you wonder if this woman, thus pursued, lost her reason, was beside herself with fear, and that her wrongs preyed upon her mind until she was no longer responsible for her acts? I turn away my head as one who would not willingly look even upon the just vengeance of Heaven. (Mr. Braham paused as if overcome by his emotions. Mrs. Hawkins and Washington were in tears, as were many of the spectators also. The jury looked scared.)
"Gentlemen, in this condition of affairs it needed but a spark—I do not say a suggestion, I do not say a hint—from this butterfly Brierly; this rejected rival, to cause the explosion. I make no charges, but if this woman was in her right mind when she fled from Washington and reached this city in company—with Brierly, then I do not know what insanity is."
When Mr. Braham sat down, he felt that he had the jury with him. A burst of applause followed, which the officer promptly, suppressed. Laura, with tears in her eyes, turned a grateful look upon her counsel. All the women among the spectators saw the tears and wept also. They thought as they also looked at Mr. Braham; how handsome he is!
Mrs. Hawkins took the stand. She was somewhat confused to be the target of so many, eyes, but her honest and good face at once told in Laura's favor.
"Mrs. Hawkins," said Mr. Braham, "will you' be kind enough to state the circumstances of your finding Laura?"
"I object," said Mr. McFlinn; rising to his feet. "This has nothing whatever to do with the case, your honor. I am surprised at it, even after the extraordinary speech of my learned friend."
"How do you propose to connect it, Mr. Braham?" asked the judge.
"If it please the court," said Mr. Braham, rising impressively, "your Honor has permitted the prosecution, and I have submitted without a word; to go into the most extraordinary testimony to establish a motive. Are we to be shut out from showing that the motive attributed to us could not by reason of certain mental conditions exist? I purpose, may, it please your Honor, to show the cause and the origin of an aberration of mind, to follow it up, with other like evidence, connecting it with the very moment of the homicide, showing a condition of the intellect, of the prisoner that precludes responsibility."
"The State must insist upon its objections," said the District Attorney. "The purpose evidently is to open the door to a mass of irrelevant testimony, the object of which is to produce an effect upon the jury your Honor well understands."
"Perhaps," suggested the judge, "the court ought to hear the testimony, and exclude it afterwards, if it is irrelevant."
"Will your honor hear argument on that!"
And argument his honor did hear, or pretend to, for two whole days, from all the counsel in turn, in the course of which the lawyers read contradictory decisions enough to perfectly establish both sides, from volume after volume, whole libraries in fact, until no mortal man could say what the rules were. The question of insanity in all its legal aspects was of course drawn into the discussion, and its application affirmed and denied. The case was felt to turn upon the admission or rejection of this evidence. It was a sort of test trial of strength between the lawyers. At the end the judge decided to admit the testimony, as the judge usually does in such cases, after a sufficient waste of time in what are called arguments.
Mrs. Hawkins was allowed to go on.
Mrs. Hawkins slowly and conscientiously, as if every detail of her family history was important, told the story of the steamboat explosion, of the finding and adoption of Laura. Silas, that its Mr. Hawkins, and she always loved Laura, as if she had been their own, child.
She then narrated the circumstances of Laura's supposed marriage, her abandonment and long illness, in a manner that touched all hearts. Laura had been a different woman since then.
Cross-examined. At the time of first finding Laura on the steamboat, did she notice that Laura's mind was at all deranged? She couldn't say that she did. After the recovery of Laura from her long illness, did Mrs. Hawkins think there, were any signs of insanity about her? Witness confessed that she did not think of it then.
Re-Direct examination. "But she was different after that?"
"O, yes, sir."
Washington Hawkins corroborated his mother's testimony as to Laura's connection with Col. Selby. He was at Harding during the time of her living there with him. After Col. Selby's desertion she was almost dead, never appeared to know anything rightly for weeks. He added that he never saw such a scoundrel as Selby. (Checked by District attorney.) Had he noticed any change in, Laura after her illness? Oh, yes. Whenever, any allusion was made that might recall Selby to mind, she looked awful—as if she could kill him.
"You mean," said Mr. Braham, "that there was an unnatural, insane gleam in her eyes?"
"Yes, certainly," said Washington in confusion.
All this was objected to by the district attorney, but it was got before the jury, and Mr. Braham did not care how much it was ruled out after that.
"Beriah Sellers was the next witness called. The Colonel made his way to the stand with majestic, yet bland deliberation. Having taken the oath and kissed the Bible with a smack intended to show his great respect for that book, he bowed to his Honor with dignity, to the jury with familiarity, and then turned to the lawyers and stood in an attitude of superior attention.
"Mr. Sellers, I believe?" began Mr. Braham.
"Beriah Sellers, Missouri," was the courteous acknowledgment that the lawyer was correct.
"Mr. Sellers; you know the parties here, you are a friend of the family?"
"Know them all, from infancy, sir. It was me, sir, that induced Silas Hawkins, Judge Hawkins, to come to Missouri, and make his fortune. It was by my advice and in company with me, sir, that he went into the operation of—"
"Yes, yes. Mr. Sellers, did you know a Major Lackland?"
"Knew him, well, sir, knew him and honored him, sir. He was one of the most remarkable men of our country, sir. A member of congress. He was often at my mansion sir, for weeks. He used to say to me, 'Col. Sellers, if you would go into politics, if I had you for a colleague, we should show Calhoun and Webster that the brain of the country didn't lie east of the Alleganies. But I said—"
"Yes, yes. I believe Major Lackland is not living, Colonel?"
There was an almost imperceptible sense of pleasure betrayed in the Colonel's face at this prompt acknowledgment of his title.
"Bless you, no. Died years ago, a miserable death, sir, a ruined man, a poor sot. He was suspected of selling his vote in Congress, and probably he did; the disgrace killed' him, he was an outcast, sir, loathed by himself and by his constituents. And I think; sir"——
The Judge. "You will confine yourself, Col. Sellers to the questions of the counsel."
"Of course, your honor. This," continued the Colonel in confidential explanation, "was twenty years ago. I shouldn't have thought of referring to such a trifling circumstance now. If I remember rightly, sir"—
A bundle of letters was here handed to the witness.
"Do you recognize, that hand-writing?"
"As if it was my own, sir. It's Major Lackland's. I was knowing to these letters when Judge Hawkins received them. [The Colonel's memory was a little at fault here. Mr. Hawkins had never gone into detail's with him on this subject.] He used to show them to me, and say, 'Col, Sellers you've a mind to untangle this sort of thing.' Lord, how everything comes back to me. Laura was a little thing then. 'The Judge and I were just laying our plans to buy the Pilot Knob, and—"
"Colonel, one moment. Your Honor, we put these letters in evidence."
The letters were a portion of the correspondence of Major Lackland with Silas Hawkins; parts of them were missing and important letters were referred to that were not here. They related, as the reader knows, to Laura's father. Lackland had come upon the track of a man who was searching for a lost child in a Mississippi steamboat explosion years before. The man was lame in one leg, and appeared to be flitting from place to place. It seemed that Major Lackland got so close track of him that he was able to describe his personal appearance and learn his name. But the letter containing these particulars was lost. Once he heard of him at a hotel in Washington; but the man departed, leaving an empty trunk, the day before the major went there. There was something very mysterious in all his movements.
Col. Sellers, continuing his testimony, said that he saw this lost letter, but could not now recall the name. Search for the supposed father had been continued by Lackland, Hawkins and himself for several years, but Laura was not informed of it till after the death of Hawkins, for fear of raising false hopes in her mind.
Here the Distract Attorney arose and said,
"Your Honor, I must positively object to letting the witness wander off into all these irrelevant details."
Mr. Braham. "I submit your honor, that we cannot be interrupted in this manner we have suffered the state to have full swing. Now here is a witness, who has known the prisoner from infancy, and is competent to testify upon the one point vital to her safety. Evidently he is a gentleman of character, and his knowledge of the case cannot be shut out without increasing the aspect of persecution which the State's attitude towards the prisoner already has assumed."
The wrangle continued, waxing hotter and hotter. The Colonel seeing the attention of the counsel and Court entirely withdrawn from him, thought he perceived here his opportunity, turning and beaming upon the jury, he began simply to talk, but as the grandeur of his position grew upon him —talk broadened unconsciously into an oratorical vein.
"You see how she was situated, gentlemen; poor child, it might have broken her, heart to let her mind get to running on such a thing as that. You see, from what we could make out her father was lame in the left leg and had a deep scar on his left forehead. And so ever since the day she found out she had another father, she never could, run across a lame stranger without being taken all over with a shiver, and almost fainting where she, stood. And the next minute she would go right after that man. Once she stumbled on a stranger with a game leg; and she was the most grateful thing in this world—but it was the wrong leg, and it was days and days before she could leave her bed. Once she found a man with a scar on his forehead and she was just going to throw herself into his arms,' but he stepped out just then, and there wasn't anything the matter with his legs. Time and time again, gentlemen of the jury, has this poor suffering orphan flung herself on her knees with all her heart's gratitude in her eyes before some scarred and crippled veteran, but always, always to be disappointed, always to be plunged into new despair—if his legs were right his scar was wrong, if his scar was right his legs were wrong. Never could find a man that would fill the bill. Gentlemen of the jury; you have hearts, you have feelings, you have warm human sympathies; you can feel for this poor suffering child. Gentlemen of the jury, if I had time, if I had the opportunity, if I might be permitted to go on and tell you the thousands and thousands and thousands of mutilated strangers this poor girl has started out of cover, and hunted from city to city, from state to state, from continent to continent, till she has run them down and found they wan't the ones; I know your hearts—"
By this time the Colonel had become so warmed up, that his voice, had reached a pitch above that of the contending counsel; the lawyers suddenly stopped, and they and the Judge turned towards the Colonel and remained far several seconds too surprised at this novel exhibition to speak. In this interval of silence, an appreciation of the situation gradually stole over the audience, and an explosion of laughter followed, in which even the Court and the bar could hardly keep from joining.
Sheriff. "Order in the Court."
The Judge. "The witness will confine his remarks to answers to questions."
The Colonel turned courteously to the Judge and said,
"Certainly, your Honor—certainly. I am not well acquainted with the forms of procedure in the courts of New York, but in the West, sir, in the West—"
The Judge. "There, there, that will do, that will do!"
"You see, your Honor, there were no questions asked me, and I thought I would take advantage of the lull in the proceedings to explain to the jury a very significant train of—"
The Judge. "That will DO sir! Proceed Mr. Braham."
"Col. Sellers, have you any, reason to suppose that this man is still living?"
"Every reason, sir, every reason.
"I have never heard of his death, sir. It has never come to my knowledge. In fact, sir, as I once said to Governor—"
"Will you state to the jury what has been the effect of the knowledge of this wandering and evidently unsettled being, supposed to be her father, upon the mind of Miss Hawkins for so many years!"
Question objected to. Question ruled out.
Cross-examined. "Major Sellers, what is your occupation?"
The Colonel looked about him loftily, as if casting in his mind what would be the proper occupation of a person of such multifarious interests and then said with dignity:
"A gentleman, sir. My father used to always say, sir"—
"Capt. Sellers, did you; ever see this man, this supposed father?"
"No, Sir. But upon one occasion, old Senator Thompson said to me, its my opinion, Colonel Sellers"—
"Did you ever see any body who had seen him?"
"No, sir: It was reported around at one time, that"—
"That is all."
The defense then sent a day in the examination of medical experts in insanity who testified, on the evidence heard, that sufficient causes had occurred to produce an insane mind in the prisoner. Numerous cases were cited to sustain this opinion. There was such a thing as momentary insanity, in which the person, otherwise rational to all appearances, was for the time actually bereft of reason, and not responsible for his acts. The causes of this momentary possession could often be found in the person's life. [It afterwards came out that the chief expert for the defense, was paid a thousand dollars for looking into the case.]
The prosecution consumed another day in the examination of experts refuting the notion of insanity. These causes might have produced insanity, but there was no evidence that they have produced it in this case, or that the prisoner was not at the time of the commission of the crime in full possession of her ordinary faculties.
The trial had now lasted two weeks. It required four days now for the lawyers to "sum up." These arguments of the counsel were very important to their friends, and greatly enhanced their reputation at the bar but they have small interest to us. Mr. Braham in his closing speech surpassed himself; his effort is still remembered as the greatest in the criminal annals of New York.
Mr. Braham re-drew for the jury the picture, of Laura's early life; he dwelt long upon that painful episode of the pretended marriage and the desertion. Col. Selby, he said, belonged, gentlemen; to what is called the "upper classes:" It is the privilege of the "upper classes" to prey upon the sons and daughters of the people. The Hawkins family, though allied to the best blood of the South, were at the time in humble circumstances. He commented upon her parentage. Perhaps her agonized father, in his intervals of sanity, was still searching for his lost daughter. Would he one day hear that she had died a felon's death? Society had pursued her, fate had pursued her, and in a moment of delirium she had turned and defied fate and society. He dwelt upon the admission of base wrong in Col. Selby's dying statement. He drew a vivid, picture of the villain at last overtaken by the vengeance of Heaven. Would the jury say that this retributive justice, inflicted by an outraged, and deluded woman, rendered irrational by the most cruel wrongs, was in the nature of a foul, premeditated murder? "Gentlemen; it is enough for me to look upon the life of this most beautiful and accomplished of her sex, blasted by the heartless villainy of man, without seeing, at the-end of it; the horrible spectacle of a gibbet. Gentlemen, we are all human, we have all sinned, we all have need of mercy. But I do not ask mercy of you who are the guardians of society and of the poor waifs, its sometimes wronged victims; I ask only that justice which you and I shall need in that last, dreadful hour, when death will be robbed of half its terrors if we can reflect that we have never wronged a human being. Gentlemen, the life of this lovely and once happy girl, this now stricken woman, is in your hands."
The jury were risibly affected. Half the court room was in tears. If a vote of both spectators and jury could have been taken then, the verdict would have been, "let her go, she has suffered enough."
But the district attorney had the closing argument. Calmly and without malice or excitement he reviewed the testimony. As the cold facts were unrolled, fear settled upon the listeners. There was no escape from the murder or its premeditation. Laura's character as a lobbyist in Washington which had been made to appear incidentally in the evidence was also against her: the whole body of the testimony of the defense was shown to be irrelevant, introduced only to excite sympathy, and not giving a color of probability to the absurd supposition of insanity. The attorney then dwelt upon, the insecurity of life in the city, and the growing immunity with which women committed murders. Mr. McFlinn made a very able speech; convincing the reason without touching the feelings.
The Judge in his charge reviewed the testimony with great show of impartiality. He ended by saying that the verdict must be acquittal or murder in the first, degree. If you find that the prisoner committed a homicide, in possession of her reason and with premeditation, your verdict will be accordingly. If you find she was not in her right mind, that she was the victim of insanity, hereditary or momentary, as it has been explained, your verdict will take that into account.
As the Judge finished his charge, the spectators anxiously watched the faces of the jury. It was not a remunerative study. In the court room the general feeling was in favor of Laura, but whether this feeling extended to the jury, their stolid faces did not reveal. The public outside hoped for a conviction, as it always does; it wanted an example; the newspapers trusted the jury would have the courage to do its duty. When Laura was convicted, then the public would tern around and abuse the governor if he did; not pardon her.
The jury went out. Mr. Braham preserved his serene confidence, but Laura's friends were dispirited. Washington and Col. Sellers had been obliged to go to Washington, and they had departed under the unspoken fear the verdict would be unfavorable, a disagreement was the best they could hope for, and money was needed. The necessity of the passage of the University bill was now imperative.
The Court waited, for, some time, but the jury gave no signs of coming in. Mr. Braham said it was extraordinary. The Court then took a recess for a couple of hours. Upon again coming in, word was brought that the jury had not yet agreed.
But the jury, had a question. The point upon which, they wanted instruction was this. They wanted to know if Col. Sellers was related to the Hawkins family. The court then adjourned till morning.
Mr. Braham, who was in something of a pet, remarked to Mr. O'Toole that they must have been deceived, that juryman with the broken nose could read!
The momentous day was at hand—a day that promised to make or mar the fortunes of Hawkins family for all time. Washington Hawkins and Col. Sellers were both up early, for neither of them could sleep. Congress was expiring, and was passing bill after bill as if they were gasps and each likely to be its last. The University was on file for its third reading this day, and to-morrow Washington would be a millionaire and Sellers no longer, impecunious but this day, also, or at farthest the next, the jury in Laura's Case would come to a decision of some kind or other—they would find her guilty, Washington secretly feared, and then the care and the trouble would all come back again, and these would be wearing months of besieging judges for new trials; on this day, also, the re-election of Mr. Dilworthy to the Senate would take place. So Washington's mind was in a state of turmoil; there were more interests at stake than it could handle with serenity. He exulted when he thought of his millions; he was filled with dread when he thought of Laura. But Sellers was excited and happy. He said:
"Everything is going right, everything's going perfectly right. Pretty soon the telegrams will begin to rattle in, and then you'll see, my boy. Let the jury do what they please; what difference is it going to make? To-morrow we can send a million to New York and set the lawyers at work on the judges; bless your heart they will go before judge after judge and exhort and beseech and pray and shed tears. They always do; and they always win, too. And they will win this time. They will get a writ of habeas corpus, and a stay of proceedings, and a supersedeas, and a new trial and a nolle prosequi, and there you are! That's the routine, and it's no trick at all to a New York lawyer. That's the regular routine —everything's red tape and routine in the law, you see; it's all Greek to you, of course, but to a man who is acquainted with those things it's mere—I'll explain it to you sometime. Everything's going to glide right along easy and comfortable now. You'll see, Washington, you'll see how it will be. And then, let me think ..... Dilwortby will be elected to-day, and by day, after to-morrow night he will be in New York ready to put in his shovel—and you haven't lived in Washington all this time not to know that the people who walk right by a Senator whose term is up without hardly seeing him will be down at the deepo to say 'Welcome back and God bless you; Senator, I'm glad to see you, sir!' when he comes along back re-elected, you know. Well, you see, his influence was naturally running low when he left here, but now he has got a new six-years' start, and his suggestions will simply just weigh a couple of tons a-piece day after tomorrow. Lord bless you he could rattle through that habeas corpus and supersedeas and all those things for Laura all by himself if he wanted to, when he gets back."
"I hadn't thought of that," said Washington, brightening, "but it is so. A newly-elected Senator is a power, I know that."
"Yes indeed he is.—Why it, is just human nature. Look at me. When we first came here, I was Mr. Sellers, and Major Sellers, Captain Sellers, but nobody could ever get it right, somehow; but the minute our bill went, through the House, I was Col. Sellers every time. And nobody could do enough for me, and whatever I said was wonderful, Sir, it was always wonderful; I never seemed to say any flat things at all. It was Colonel, won't you come and dine with us; and Colonel why don't we ever see you at our house; and the Colonel says this; and the Colonel says that; and we know such-and-such is so-and-so because my husband heard Col. Sellers say so. Don't you see? Well, the Senate adjourned and left our bill high, and dry, and I'll be hanged if I warn't Old Sellers from that day, till our bill passed the House again last week. Now I'm the Colonel again; and if I were to eat all the dinners I am invited to, I reckon I'd wear my teeth down level with my gums in a couple of weeks."
"Well I do wonder what you will be to-morrow; Colonel, after the President signs the bill!"
"General, sir?—General, without a doubt. Yes, sir, tomorrow it will be General, let me congratulate you, sir; General, you've done a great work, sir;—you've done a great work for the niggro; Gentlemen allow me the honor to introduce my friend General Sellers, the humane friend of the niggro. Lord bless me; you'll' see the newspapers say, General Sellers and servants arrived in the city last night and is stopping at the Fifth Avenue; and General Sellers has accepted a reception and banquet by the Cosmopolitan Club; you'll see the General's opinions quoted, too —and what the General has to say about the propriety of a new trial and a habeas corpus for the unfortunate Miss Hawkins will not be without weight in influential quarters, I can tell you."
"And I want to be the first to shake your faithful old hand and salute you with your new honors, and I want to do it now—General!" said Washington, suiting the action to the word, and accompanying it with all the meaning that a cordial grasp and eloquent eyes could give it.
The Colonel was touched; he was pleased and proud, too; his face answered for that.
Not very long after breakfast the telegrams began to arrive. The first was from Braham, and ran thus:
"We feel certain that the verdict will be rendered to-day. Be it good or bad, let it find us ready to make the next move instantly, whatever it may be:"
"That's the right talk," said Sellers. "That Graham's a wonderful man. He was the only man there that really understood me; he told me so himself, afterwards."
The next telegram was from Mr. Dilworthy:
"I have not only brought over the Great Invincible, but through him a dozen more of the opposition. Shall be re-elected to-day by an overwhelming majority."
"Good again!" said the Colonel. "That man's talent for organization is something marvelous. He wanted me to go out there and engineer that thing, but I said, No, Dilworthy, I must be on hand here,—both on Laura's account and the bill's—but you've no trifling genius for organization yourself, said I—and I was right. You go ahead, said I —you can fix it—and so he has. But I claim no credit for that—if I stiffened up his back-bone a little, I simply put him in the way to make his fight—didn't undertake it myself. He has captured Noble—. I consider that a splendid piece of diplomacy—Splendid, Sir!"
By and by came another dispatch from New York:
"Jury still out. Laura calm and firm as a statue. The report that the jury have brought her in guilty is false and premature."
"Premature!" gasped Washington, turning white. "Then they all expect that sort of a verdict, when it comes in."
And so did he; but he had not had courage enough to put it into words. He had been preparing himself for the worst, but after all his preparation the bare suggestion of the possibility of such a verdict struck him cold as death.
The friends grew impatient, now; the telegrams did not come fast enough: even the lightning could not keep up with their anxieties. They walked the floor talking disjointedly and listening for the door-bell. Telegram after telegram came. Still no result. By and by there was one which contained a single line:
"Court now coming in after brief recess to hear verdict. Jury ready."
"Oh, I wish they would finish!" said Washington. "This suspense is killing me by inches!"
Then came another telegram:
"Another hitch somewhere. Jury want a little more time and further instructions."
"Well, well, well, this is trying," said the Colonel. And after a pause, "No dispatch from Dilworthy for two hours, now. Even a dispatch from him would be better than nothing, just to vary this thing."
They waited twenty minutes. It seemed twenty hours.
"Come!" said Washington. "I can't wait for the telegraph boy to come all the way up here. Let's go down to Newspaper Row—meet him on the way."
While they were passing along the Avenue, they saw someone putting up a great display-sheet on the bulletin board of a newspaper office, and an eager crowd of men was collecting abort the place. Washington and the Colonel ran to the spot and read this:
"Tremendous Sensation! Startling news from Saint's Rest! On first ballot for U. S. Senator, when voting was about to begin, Mr. Noble rose in his place and drew forth a package, walked forward and laid it on the Speaker's desk, saying, 'This contains $7,000 in bank bills and was given me by Senator Dilworthy in his bed-chamber at midnight last night to buy —my vote for him—I wish the Speaker to count the money and retain it to pay the expense of prosecuting this infamous traitor for bribery. The whole legislature was stricken speechless with dismay and astonishment. Noble further said that there were fifty members present with money in their pockets, placed there by Dilworthy to buy their votes. Amidst unparalleled excitement the ballot was now taken, and J. W. Smith elected U. S. Senator; Dilworthy receiving not one vote! Noble promises damaging exposures concerning Dilworthy and certain measures of his now pending in Congress.
"Good heavens and earth!" exclaimed the Colonel.
"To the Capitol!" said Washington. "Fly!"
And they did fly. Long before they got there the newsboys were running ahead of them with Extras, hot from the press, announcing the astounding news.
Arrived in the gallery of the Senate, the friends saw a curious spectacle very Senator held an Extra in his hand and looked as interested as if it contained news of the destruction of the earth. Not a single member was paying the least attention to the business of the hour.
The Secretary, in a loud voice, was just beginning to read the title of a bill:
"House-Bill—No. 4,231,—An-Act-to-Found-and-Incorporate-the Knobs- Industrial-University!—Read-first-and-second-time-considered-in- committee-of-the-whole-ordered-engrossed and-passed-to-third-reading-and- final passage!"
The President—"Third reading of the bill!"
The two friends shook in their shoes. Senators threw down their extras and snatched a word or two with each other in whispers. Then the gavel rapped to command silence while the names were called on the ayes and nays. Washington grew paler and paler, weaker and weaker while the lagging list progressed; and when it was finished, his head fell helplessly forward on his arms. The fight was fought, the long struggle was over, and he was a pauper. Not a man had voted for the bill!
Col. Sellers was bewildered and well nigh paralyzed, himself. But no man could long consider his own troubles in the presence of such suffering as Washington's. He got him up and supported him—almost carried him indeed—out of the building and into a carriage. All the way home Washington lay with his face against the Colonel's shoulder and merely groaned and wept. The Colonel tried as well as he could under the dreary circumstances to hearten him a little, but it was of no use. Washington was past all hope of cheer, now. He only said:
"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.
And now occurred one of those beautiful incidents which no fiction-writer would dare to imagine, a scene of touching pathos, creditable to our fallen humanity. In the eyes of the women of the audience Mr. Braham was the hero of the occasion; he had saved the life of the prisoner; and besides he was such a handsome man. The women could not restrain their long pent-up emotions. They threw themselves upon Mr. Braham in a transport of gratitude; they kissed him again and again, the young as well as the advanced in years, the married as well as the ardent single women; they improved the opportunity with a touching self-sacrifice; in the words of a newspaper of the day they "lavished him with kisses."
It was something sweet to do; and it would be sweet for a woman to remember in after years, that she had kissed Braham! Mr. Braham himself received these fond assaults with the gallantry of his nation, enduring the ugly, and heartily paying back beauty in its own coin.
This beautiful scene is still known in New York as "the kissing of Braham."
When the tumult of congratulation had a little spent itself, and order was restored, Judge O'Shaunnessy said that it now became his duty to provide for the proper custody and treatment of the acquitted. The verdict of the jury having left no doubt that the woman was of an unsound mind, with a kind of insanity dangerous to the safety of the community, she could not be permitted to go at large. "In accordance with the directions of the law in such cases," said the Judge, "and in obedience to the dictates of a wise humanity, I hereby commit Laura Hawkins to the care of the Superintendent of the State Hospital for Insane Criminals, to be held in confinement until the State Commissioners on Insanity shall order her discharge. Mr. Sheriff, you will attend at once to the execution of this decree."
Laura was overwhelmed and terror-stricken. She had expected to walk forth in freedom in a few moments. The revulsion was terrible. Her mother appeared like one shaken with an ague fit. Laura insane! And about to be locked up with madmen! She had never contemplated this. Mr. Graham said he should move at once for a writ of 'habeas corpus'.
But the judge could not do less than his duty, the law must have its way. As in the stupor of a sudden calamity, and not fully comprehending it, Mrs. Hawkins saw Laura led away by the officer.
With little space for thought she was, rapidly driven to the railway station, and conveyed to the Hospital for Lunatic Criminals. It was only when she was within this vast and grim abode of madness that she realized the horror of her situation. It was only when she was received by the kind physician and read pity in his eyes, and saw his look of hopeless incredulity when she attempted to tell him that she was not insane; it was only when she passed through the ward to which she was consigned and saw the horrible creatures, the victims of a double calamity, whose dreadful faces she was hereafter to see daily, and was locked into the small, bare room that was to be her home, that all her fortitude forsook her. She sank upon the bed, as soon as she was left alone—she had been searched by the matron—and tried to think. But her brain was in a whirl. She recalled Braham's speech, she recalled the testimony regarding her lunacy. She wondered if she were not mad; she felt that she soon should be among these loathsome creatures. Better almost to have died, than to slowly go mad in this confinement.
—We beg the reader's pardon. This is not history, which has just been written. It is really what would have occurred if this were a novel. If this were a work of fiction, we should not dare to dispose of Laura otherwise. True art and any attention to dramatic proprieties required it. The novelist who would turn loose upon society an insane murderess could not escape condemnation. Besides, the safety of society, the decencies of criminal procedure, what we call our modern civilization, all would demand that Laura should be disposed of in the manner we have described. Foreigners, who read this sad story, will be unable to understand any other termination of it.
But this is history and not fiction. There is no such law or custom as that to which his Honor is supposed to have referred; Judge O'Shaunnessy would not probably pay any attention to it if there were. There is no Hospital for Insane Criminals; there is no State commission of lunacy. What actually occurred when the tumult in the court room had subsided the sagacious reader will now learn.
Laura left the court room, accompanied by her mother and other friends, amid the congratulations of those assembled, and was cheered as she entered a carriage, and drove away. How sweet was the sunlight, how exhilarating the sense of freedom! Were not these following cheers the expression of popular approval and affection? Was she not the heroine of the hour?
It was with a feeling of triumph that Laura reached her hotel, a scornful feeling of victory over society with its own weapons.
Mrs. Hawkins shared not at all in this feeling; she was broken with the disgrace and the long anxiety.
"Thank God, Laura," she said, "it is over. Now we will go away from this hateful city. Let us go home at once."
"Mother," replied Laura, speaking with some tenderness, "I cannot go with you. There, don't cry, I cannot go back to that life."
Mrs. Hawkins was sobbing. This was more cruel than anything else, for she had a dim notion of what it would be to leave Laura to herself.
"No, mother, you have been everything to me. You know how dearly I love you. But I cannot go back."
A boy brought in a telegraphic despatch. Laura took it and read:
"The bill is lost. Dilworthy ruined. (Signed) WASHINGTON."
For a moment the words swam before her eyes. The next her eyes flashed fire as she handed the dispatch to her m other and bitterly said,
"The world is against me. Well, let it be, let it. I am against it."
"This is a cruel disappointment," said Mrs. Hawkins, to whom one grief more or less did not much matter now, "to you and, Washington; but we must humbly bear it."
"Bear it;" replied Laura scornfully, "I've all my life borne it, and fate has thwarted me at every step."
A servant came to the door to say that there was a gentleman below who wished to speak with Miss Hawkins. "J. Adolphe Griller" was the name Laura read on the card. "I do not know such a person. He probably comes from Washington. Send him up."
Mr. Griller entered. He was a small man, slovenly in dress, his tone confidential, his manner wholly void of animation, all his features below the forehead protruding—particularly the apple of his throat—hair without a kink in it, a hand with no grip, a meek, hang-dog countenance. a falsehood done in flesh and blood; for while every visible sign about him proclaimed him a poor, witless, useless weakling, the truth was that he had the brains to plan great enterprises and the pluck to carry them through. That was his reputation, and it was a deserved one. He softly said:
"I called to see you on business, Miss Hawkins. You have my card?"
Mr. Griller continued to purr, as softly as before.
"I will proceed to business. I am a business man. I am a lecture-agent, Miss Hawkins, and as soon as I saw that you were acquitted, it occurred to me that an early interview would be mutually beneficial."
"I don't understand you, sir," said Laura coldly.
"No? You see, Miss Hawkins, this is your opportunity. If you will enter the lecture field under good auspices, you will carry everything before you."
"But, sir, I never lectured, I haven't any lecture, I don't know anything about it."
"Ah, madam, that makes no difference—no real difference. It is not necessary to be able to lecture in order to go into the lecture tour. If ones name is celebrated all over the land, especially, and, if she is also beautiful, she is certain to draw large audiences."
"But what should I lecture about?" asked Laura, beginning in spite of herself to be a little interested as well as amused.
"Oh, why; woman—something about woman, I should say; the marriage relation, woman's fate, anything of that sort. Call it The Revelations of a Woman's Life; now, there's a good title. I wouldn't want any better title than that. I'm prepared to make you an offer, Miss Hawkins, a liberal offer,—twelve thousand dollars for thirty nights."
Laura thought. She hesitated. Why not? It would give her employment, money. She must do something.
"I will think of it, and let you know soon. But still, there is very little likelihood that I—however, we will not discuss it further now."
"Remember, that the sooner we get to work the better, Miss Hawkins, public curiosity is so fickle. Good day, madam."
The close of the trial released Mr. Harry Brierly and left him free to depart upon his long talked of Pacific-coast mission. He was very mysterious about it, even to Philip.
"It's confidential, old boy," he said, "a little scheme we have hatched up. I don't mind telling you that it's a good deal bigger thing than that in Missouri, and a sure thing. I wouldn't take a half a million just for my share. And it will open something for you, Phil. You will hear from me."
Philip did hear, from Harry a few months afterward. Everything promised splendidly, but there was a little delay. Could Phil let him have a hundred, say, for ninety days?
Philip himself hastened to Philadelphia, and, as soon as the spring opened, to the mine at Ilium, and began transforming the loan he had received from Squire Montague into laborers' wages. He was haunted with many anxieties; in the first place, Ruth was overtaxing her strength in her hospital labors, and Philip felt as if he must move heaven and earth to save her from such toil and suffering. His increased pecuniary obligation oppressed him. It seemed to him also that he had been one cause of the misfortune to the Bolton family, and that he was dragging into loss and ruin everybody who associated with him. He worked on day after day and week after week, with a feverish anxiety.
It would be wicked, thought Philip, and impious, to pray for luck; he felt that perhaps he ought not to ask a blessing upon the sort of labor that was only a venture; but yet in that daily petition, which this very faulty and not very consistent young Christian gentleman put up, he prayed earnestly enough for Ruth and for the Boltons and for those whom he loved and who trusted in him, and that his life might not be a misfortune to them and a failure to himself.
Since this young fellow went out into the world from his New England home, he had done some things that he would rather his mother should not know, things maybe that he would shrink from telling Ruth. At a certain green age young gentlemen are sometimes afraid of being called milksops, and Philip's associates had not always been the most select, such as these historians would have chosen for him, or whom at a later, period he would have chosen for himself. It seemed inexplicable, for instance, that his life should have been thrown so much with his college acquaintance, Henry Brierly.
Yet, this was true of Philip, that in whatever company he had been he had never been ashamed to stand up for the principles he learned from his mother, and neither raillery nor looks of wonder turned him from that daily habit had learned at his mother's knees.—Even flippant Harry respected this, and perhaps it was one of the reasons why Harry and all who knew Philip trusted him implicitly. And yet it must be confessed that Philip did not convey the impression to the world of a very serious young man, or of a man who might not rather easily fall into temptation. One looking for a real hero would have to go elsewhere.