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glance of curiosity, not a word of pity was flung towards the prigoner in the dock; every emotion usual to the occasion seemed to be in abeyance as jurymen and spectators and officials hurried to quit the place, where for so many weary hours they had been incarcerated.
One person alone kept his place—a man in the prime of manhood and full intellectual vigour, who throughout the trial had sat by the judge's side, keenly watching the progress of the case, and still kept his gaze fixed on the prisoner, who, in the very act of removal, had thrust aside the gaoler's arm to look back and return that curiously intent gaze.
For a minute she hesitated, plunging in his eyes a strange look, to which he had no clue ; her lips moved, she made a half-gesture as though to beckon him, then turned and left the dock with a firm step.
“One of those retarded intelligences that think much and speak little; that combine the simplicity of thought with the directness in execution of a savage or a child . . . . unloved, as a virgin she has been able to bring the whole forces of her nature to a difficult undertaking, and so far has-succeeded."
He rose and made his way to the Assize Inn, where he found the judge already retired to bed, his wig suspended above him on the bed-post.
“Is that you, Eyre ?” he said, opening his eyes. “I wish I could have hanged those twelve fools as well as the woman. Nine hours' deliberation and a recommendation to mercy, on the face of such a summing-up as mine! You'll turn in now, of course ?"
“No; my horse is waiting. I'm bound for home.” The judge made a wry face.
“So you're still-still- I wonder what it's like ?” he added, as one thinking aloud.
“ Try it," said Mr. Eyre, with a smile. The old bachelor shook his head.
" Women," he said, "are--are--" but the remainder of his sentence was cut short by a snore.
And now for Madcap," said Mr. Eyre, as he sprang into his saddle—“Madcap, sunshine of my breast.” But even as he spoke the governor of the gaol hurried out and begged of him to defer his departure for five minutes, as the condemned woman had been asking eagerly to see him.
"She has been so inveterately silent,” he said, as Mr. Eyre
dismounted, “that I feared if this opportunity of hearing the truth were missed, another might not occur, and so ventured to detain you.”
"Oh, she won't confess,” said Mr. Eyre carelessly. “I have been studying her; she fears only lest her crime be discovered to the parents, who are guiltless in the business, or I'm much mistaken."
“If the summing-up had not been so clear,” said the governor, "she would have got off; as it is, that recommendation to mercy may save her neck yet.
“Not it,” said Mr. Eyre; “I shall send a private line to town-guilty she is, and hanged she shall be.”
These words for the cell-door was at that moment thrown open-were heard by the prisoner.
Shall I ?” she said, lifting her head from her knees and fixing on him a strange look as he entered.
' Ay,” he said, “your crime was an inhuman one, and your life pays the forfeit."
“If all were known,” she said, I should no more die on the gallows than you."
“ Then tell all,” said Mr. Eyre instantly. "Reveal the facts that prove your innocence! Denounce the guilty and let the parents be brought forward! Ay,” he added, pursuing her rising terror, “and they shall be if they are living.”
“ They're dead," she said, in uncontrollable agitation, “and I did it-I laid the baby down by the pool, and it was drowned; and I pleaded guilty-you can't alter that; and if you tell anybody I said there's others behind me, I'll say that you lied, for
, all that you're a great gentleman and a magistrate, and I'm a poor serving woman that --"
“So it was your mistress's child that you drowned,” he said, following each thought as it painted itself on her face.
“Who said it ?" she cried, starting back as if a bullet had struck her. “If any come here after I'm dead, tell them—tell them-I thought I'd a sort of claim on you,” she went on sullenly, “ because 'twas you that gave me up to justice and put the rope round my neck ; and because there's that in your face as has seemed nat'ral to me all through, and puzzles me yet; but I'm sorry now I sent to beg a word with you.”
Her arms fell to her sides. The narrow mean face suddenly became fixed and sharpened to an intensity of expression that almost reached power; still thinking intently, her right hand stole to her throat and gripped it, while a faint smile crossed the
intensity of her gaze, as one who in secret nourishes a pleasant thought.
* When's my hanging ?” she said abruptly. “Saturday."
“Those fools recommended me to mercy,” she said slowly ; “I want you to look to it that none of that rubbish comes between this and Saturday.”
“Nothing will ; it's fixed as fate.”
“Four days,” she said, thinking hard, "lots might happen in four days. You're a magistrate,” she added suddenly; “couldn't you give orders that nobody's to be let come and see me before I die, not if they begged ever so ? and if I die between this and Saturday-for folks sometimes die as quick at home as on the gallows—couldn't you make them bury me quick, so as them that come mightn't be able to take a look at
Mr. Eyre glanced round at the tall narrow grating, the straw pallet, the wooden bowl and spoon; no, there were no instruments of self-destruction here—not even a beam whence she might simulate that awful leap in the dark which in all human probability awaited her.
“And so you would commit a second crime rather than face some unknown person-probably the mother," he said, looking at her fixedly.
No, no!” she almost screamed; “if anybody came after I'm dead it couldn't be the mother. Tell her that.'twas my own child I drowned in the pool .... You'll have more on your soul than
you of if you tell her any different . . . . I'm mad,” she muttered, “ to tell you this, and maybe you'll tell her, and I'll have died for nothing, and she'll live on believing what's worse than the truth.”
“You did not hate this woman," said Mr. Eyre, still watching her face, “yet you killed her child; what, then, was your motive for the deed?"
“Love,” she said. “I'd have given my heart's blood for her, as I'd have lost my soul to punish him.” Her eyes had the fixity of a tiger's, her body the spring and crouch of one, as she looked straight before her, seeming to see what to Mr. Eyre was invisible.
“So it is the old story," he said. “And you, poor wretch, thinking to revenge yourself on him, have only called down punishment on what you loved. But what brought you to Lovel ?” he added suddenly.
I got a clue," she said, “but 'twas a false one. It's been a black, bitter mistake (like my name) from the beginning.”
“You came here in search of the father ? ” said Mr. Eyre.
“I'll tell you no more,” she said doggedly; "and though there's one or two questions I'd like to ask you, I won't do it. I'll leave nothing behind as she could know me by if she came after I was gone. I'll be just a nameless woman as neither she nor you could be sure was her as she was looking for.”
· Your conviction will to-morrow be in every paper,” he said, “and draw momentary attention to your crime. Your absence from her, too, may have excited her suspicions. In all human probability you will see her before you die."
“ To-morrow,” she said, below her breath. “Ay, but to-day's mine.”
“Not so,” said Mr. Eyre, rising ; "for since your intention is known, means will be taken to defeat it. You will be closely watched, and the escape you meditate rendered impossible.”
“ You're a hard man,” she said, looking up. “ Have you got a wife, or a child, or any that may want pity shown to them some day? I'm thinking they'll get hard measure if they're judged by the mercy you've shown to others; and though you're high, God-a-mercy's higher. Perhaps He'll call me afore I'm fetched on Saturday.”
“Miracles are rare in these days," he said, as he struck the door with his whip; and the turnkey hurried to unlock it.
“She has confessed nothing but what we knew or guessed before,” said Mr. Eyre to the chaplain, who was waiting without; "but a watch must be placed in her cell, and relieved night and day till the end. Should a stranger come to see her, send for me immediately."
“ Colonel Busby is interesting himself about a memorial,” said the governor, as they crossed the courtyard, “and talks of himself taking it to town.
"Pooh !” said Mr. Eyre ; "he'd better stay at home. Though if he goes he'll take no harm ; 'no creature smarts so little as a fool.'
“Here he is,” said the governor, repressing a smile, as at that moment a short, pursy man rushed through the gates and unfurled a scroll on which a considerable number of names were inscribed.
“We want your signature, Eyre,” he said breathlessly. “You see I begin betimes, knowing the verdict was a foregone conclusion. But with the recommendation to mercy to back
it, I flatter myself that this will put a different face upon matters.”
“On what ground do you base your application ?” said Mr. Eyre quietly. “The woman pleaded guilty. If she did not actually drown the child, she deliberately abandoned it to its death; the crime's all one in the eyes of the law."
“But the length of time that has elapsed," said Colonel Busby, "the certainty that there are others in the background as guilty as herself-probably in this very neighbourhood.” His sidelong look fell before Mr. Eyre's glance, as the latter said,
“ You will not count on me. Indeed, I'm about to send a private line to town, pointing out the facts of the case, and how the gross ignorance and stupidity of the jury is responsible for the error of justice contained in a recommendation to mercy.”
Colonel Busby turned pale. Mr. Eyre's influence in high quarters was well known, and did he choose to exercise it, the memorial, though vouched by every signature of note in the country, was so much waste paper. With a brief good-morrow to the two gentlemen, for dawn was now giving place to day, Mr. Eyre mounted his horse and rode off at a good pace, pausing, however, on the outskirts of the town to burst out laughing, as at a sudden recollection.
“How true,” he said, aloud—“how true that 'with stupidity and a good digestion we may front much.'
'Twict dew and bird
God seemed to use it for a word. BETWEEN the darkness of night and the brightness of morning, there is in spring and time of full summer a space that surely outweighs in its peace and beauty all the hours that have gone before, or will come after.
It is that in which Nature still slumbers yet trembles each moment towards awakening—when no quiver of leaf, nor cry of bird, nor footfall of her lightest creature, breaks the intense stillness—when, in the hushed pause between earth and heaven, man involuntarily hearkens for the voice of God, but finds it not; then looking upward and descrying that Presence made manifest,
In light instead of sound, draws as nigh into his Creator as human being may.