The House of the Whispering Pines
Anna Katharine Green
Part 6 out of 7
"I looked straight into his face. I waited till I saw I had his whole
attention; then I said, as slowly and emphatically as I could: 'If you
mean Elwood--no! I shall never meet him again, except in Adelaide's
presence. He will not want to meet me. You may be at ease about that.
To-morrow all will be well, and Adelaide very happy,'
"He shrugged his shoulders, and reached for his coat and hat. As he was
putting them on, I said, 'Don't forget to harness up Jenny.' Jenny is the
grey mare. 'And leave off the bells,' I urged. 'I don't want Adelaide to
hear me go out.'
"He swung about at this. 'You and Adelaide are not very good friends it
seems.' 'As good as you and she are,' I answered. Then I flung my arms
about him. 'Don't go down street to-night,' I prayed. 'Stay home for this
one night. Stay in the house with Adelaide; stay till I come home.' He
stared, and I saw his colour change. Then he flung me off, but not
rudely. 'Why don't _you_ stay?' he asked. Then he laughed, and added,
'I'll go harness the mare.'
"'The key's in the kitchen,' I said. 'I'll go get it for you. I heard
Zadok bring it in.' He did not answer, and I went for the key. I found
two on the nail, and I brought them both; but I only handed him one, the
key to the stable-door. 'Which way are you going?' I asked, as he looked
at the key, then back towards the kitchen. 'The short way, of course,'
'Then here's the key to the Fulton grounds,'
"As he took the key, I prayed again, 'Don't do what's in your mind,
Arthur. Don't drink to-night. He only laughed, and I said my last word:
'If you do, it will be for the last time. You'll never drink again after
"He made no answer to this, and I went slowly upstairs. Everything was
quiet--quiet as death--in the whole house. If Adelaide had heard us, she
made no sign. Going to my own room, I waited until I heard Arthur come
out of the stable and go away by the door in the rear wall. Then I stole
out again. I carried a small bag with me, but no coat or hat.
"Pausing and listening again and again, I crept downstairs and halted at
the table under the rack. The keys were still there. Putting them in my
bag, I searched the rack for one of my brother's warm coats. But I took
none I saw. I remembered an old one which Adelaide had put away in the
closet under the stairs. Getting this, I put it on, and, finding a hat
there too, I took that also; and when I had pulled it over my forehead
and drawn up the collar of the coat, I was quite unrecognisable. I was
going out, when I remembered there would be no light in the club-house. I
had put a box of matches in my bag while I was upstairs, but I needed a
candle. Slipping back, I took a candlestick and candle from the
dining-room mantel, and finding that the bag would not hold them, thrust
them into the pocket of the coat I wore, and quickly left the house.
Jenny was in the stable, all harnessed; and hesitating no longer, I got
in among the bear-skins and drove swiftly away."
There was a moment's silence. Carmel had paused, and was sitting with her
hand on her heart, looking past judge, past jury, upon the lonely and
desolate scene in which she at this moment moved and suffered. An
inexpressible fatality had entered into her tones, always rich and
resonant with feeling. No one who listened could fail to share the dread
by which she was moved.
District Attorney Fox fumbled with his papers, and endeavoured to
maintain his equanimity and show an indifference which his stern but
fascinated glances at the youthful witness amply belied. He was biding
his time, but biding it in decided perturbation of mind. Neither he nor
any one else, unless it were Moffat, could tell whither this tale tended.
While she held the straight course which had probably been laid out for
her, he failed to object; but he could not prevent the subtle influence
of her voice, her manner, and her supreme beauty on the entranced jury.
Nevertheless, his pencil was busy; he was still sufficiently master of
himself for that.
Mr. Moffat, quite aware of the effect which was being produced on every
side, but equally careful to make no show of it, put in a commonplace
question at this point, possibly to rouse the witness from her own
abstraction, possibly to restore the judicial tone of the inquiry.
"How did you leave the stable-door?"
"Can you tell us what time it was when you started?"
"No. I did not look. Time meant nothing to me. I drove as fast as I
could, straight down the hill, and out towards The Whispering Pines. I
had seen Adelaide in her window as I went flying by the house, but not a
soul on the road, nor a sign of life, near or far. The whistle of a train
blew as I stopped in the thicket near the club-house door. If it was the
express train, you can tell--"
"Never mind the _if_" said Mr. Moffat. "It is enough that you heard the
whistle. Go on with what you did."
"I tied up my horse; then I went into the house. I had used Mr.
Ranelagh's key to open the door and for some reason I took it out of the
lock when I got in, and put the whole bunch back into my satchel. But I
did not lock the door. Then I lit my candle and then--I went upstairs."
Fainter and fainter the words fell, and slower and slower heaved the
youthful breast under her heavily pressing palm. Mr. Moffat made a sign
across the court-room, and I saw Dr. Carpenter get up and move nearer to
the witness stand. But she stood in no need of his help. In an instant
her cheek flushed; the eye I watched with such intensity of wonder that
apprehension unconsciously left me, rose, glowed, and fixed itself at
last--not on the judge, not on the prisoner, not even on that prisoner's
counsel--but on _me_; and as the soft light filled my soul and awoke awe,
where it had hitherto awakened passion, she quietly said:
"There is a room upstairs, in the club-house, where I have often been
with Adelaide. It has a fireplace in it, and I had seen a box there,
half filled with wood the day before. This is the room I went to, and
here I built a fire. When it was quite bright, I took out something I
had brought in my satchel, and thrust it into the flame. Then I got up
and walked away. I--I did not feel very strong, and sank on my knees
when I got to the couch, and buried my face in my arms. But I felt
better when I came back to the fire again, and very brave till I caught
a glimpse of my face in the mirror over the mantelpiece. That--that
unnerved me, and I think I screamed. Some one screamed, and I think it
was I. I know my hands went out--I saw them in the glass; then they fell
straight down at my side, and I looked and looked at myself till I saw
all the terror go out of my face, and when it was quite calm again, I
stooped down and pulled out the little tongs I had been heating in the
fire, and laid them quick--quick, before I could be sorry again--right
across my cheek, and then--"
Uproar in the court. If she had screamed when she said she did, so some
one cried out loudly now. I think that pitiful person was myself. They
say I had been standing straight up in my place for the last two minutes.
Let me have
A dram of poison; such soon speeding geer
As will disperse itself through all the veins,
That the life-weary taker may fall dead.
Come, bitter conduct, come unsavoury guide!
Thou desperate pilot, now at once run on
The dashing rocks thy sea-sick weary bark.
_Romeo and Juliet_
"I have not finished," were the first words we heard, when order was
restored, and we were all in a condition to listen again.
"I had to relate what you have just heard, that you might understand what
happened next. I was not used to pain, and I could never have kept on
pressing those irons to my cheek if I had not had the strength given me
by my own reflection in the glass. When I thought the burn was quite deep
enough, I tore the tongs away, and was lifting them to the other cheek
when I saw the door behind me open, inch by inch, as thought pushed by
"Instantly, I forgot my pain, almost my purpose, watching that door. I
saw it slowly swing to its full width, and disclose my sister standing in
the gap, with a look and in an attitude which terrified me more than the
fire had done. Dropping the tongs, I turned and faced her, covering my
cheek instinctively with my hand.
"I saw her eyes run over my elaborate dinner dress--my little hand-bag,
and the candle burning in a room made warm with a fire on the hearth.
This, before she spoke a single word. Then, with a deep labouring breath,
she looked me in the eye again, with the simple question:
"'And where is he?'"
Carmel's head had drooped at this, but she raised it almost instantly.
Mine did not rise so readily.
"'Do you mean Elwood?' I asked. 'You know!' said she. 'The veil is down
between us, Carmel; we will speak plainly now. I saw him give you the
letter. I heard you ask Arthur to harness up the horse. I have demeaned
myself to follow you, and we will have no subterfuges now. You expect
"'No,' I cried. 'I am not so bad as that, Adelaide--nor is he. Here is
the note. You will see by it what he expects, and at what place I should
have joined him, if I had been the selfish creature you think,' I had the
note hidden in my breast. I took it out, and held it towards her. I did
not feel the burn at all, but I kept it covered. She glanced down at the
words; and I felt like falling at her feet, she looked so miserable. I am
told that I must keep to fact, and must not express my feelings, or those
of others. I will try to remember this; but it is hard for a sister,
relating such a frightful scene.
"She glanced down at the paper and let it drop, almost immediately, from
her hand, 'I cannot read his words!' she cried; 'I do not need to; we
both know which of us he loves best. You cannot say that it is I, his
engaged wife.' I was silent, and her face took on an awful pallor.
'Carmel,' said she, 'do you know what this man's love has been to me? You
are a child, a warm-hearted and passionate child; but you do not know a
woman's heart. Certainly, you do not know mine. I doubt if any one
does--even he. Cares have warped my life. I do not quarrel with these
cares; I only say that they have robbed me of what makes girlhood lovely.
Duty is a stern task-master; and sternness, coming early into one's life,
hardens its edges, but does not sap passion from the soul or devotion
from the heart. I was ready for joy when it came, but I was no longer
capable of bestowing it. I thought I was, but I soon saw my mistake. You
showed it to me--you with your beauty, your freshness, your warm and
untried heart. I have no charms to rival these; I have only love, such
love as you cannot dream of at your age. And _this_ is no longer
desirable to him!'
"You see that I remember every word she spoke. They burned more fiercely
than the iron. That did not burn at all, just then. I was cold
instead--bitterly, awfully cold. My very heart seemed frozen, and the
silence was dreadful. But I could not speak, I could not answer her.
"'You have everything,' she now went on. 'Why did you rob me of my one
happiness? And you have robbed me. I have seen your smile when his head
turned your way. It was the smile which runs before a promise. I know it;
I have had that smile in my heart a long, long time--but it never
reached my lips. Carmel, do you know why I am here?' I shook my head. Was
it her teeth that were chattering or mine? 'I am here to end it all,'
said she. 'With my hope gone, my heart laid waste, life has no prospect
for me. I believe in God, and I know that my act is sinful; but I can no
more live than can a tree stricken at the root. To-morrow he will not
need to write notes; he can come and comfort you in our home. But never
let him look at me. As we are sisters, and I almost a mother to you, shut
my face away from his eyes--or I shall rise in my casket and the tangle
of our lives will be renewed.'
"I tell you this--I bare my sister's broken heart to you, giving you her
very words, sacred as they are to me and--and to others, who are
present, and must listen to all I say--because it is right that you
should understand her frenzy, and know all that passed between us in
that awful hour."
This was irregular, highly irregular--but District Attorney Fox sat on,
unmoved. Possibly he feared to prejudice the jury; possibly he recognised
the danger of an interruption now, not only to the continuity of her
testimony, but to the witness herself; or--what is just as
likely--possibly he cherished a hope that, in giving her a free rein and
allowing her to tell her story thus artlessly, she would herself supply
the clew he needed to reconstruct his case on the new lines upon which it
was being slowly forced by these unexpected revelations. Whatever the
cause, he let these expressions of feeling pass.
At a gesture from Mr. Moffat, Carmel proceeded:
"I tottered at this threat; and she, a mother to me from my cradle,
started instinctively to catch me; but the feeling left her before she
had taken two steps, and she stopped still. 'Drop your hand,' she cried.
'I want to see your whole face while I ask you one last question. I could
not read the note. Why did you come _here?_ I dropped my hand, and she
stood staring; then she uttered a cry and ran quickly towards me. 'What
is it?' she cried. 'What has happened to you? Is it the shadow or--'
"I caught her by the hand. I could speak now. 'Adelaide,' said I, 'you
are not the only one to love to the point of hurt. I love _you_. Let this
little scar be witness,' Then, as her eyes opened and she staggered, I
caught her to my breast and hid my face on her shoulder. 'You say that
to-morrow I shall be free to receive notes. He will not wish to write
them, tomorrow. The beauty he liked is gone. If it weighed overmuch with
him, then you and I are on a plane again--or I am on an inferior one.
Your joy will be sweeter for this break!'
"She started, raised my head from her shoulder, looked at me and
shuddered--but no longer with hate. 'Carmel!' she whispered, 'the
story--the story I read you of Francis the First and--'
"'Yes,' I agreed, 'that made me think,' Her knees bent under her; she
sank at my feet, but her eyes never left my face. 'And--and Elwood?' 'He
knows nothing. I did not make up my mind till to-night. Adelaide, it had
to be. I hadn't the strength to--to leave you all, or--or to say no, if
he ever asked me to my face what he asked me in that note,'
"And then I tried to lift her; but she was kissing my feet, kissing my
dress, sobbing out her life on my hands. Oh, I was happy! My future
looked very simple to me. But my cheek began to burn, and instinctively I
put up my hand. This brought her to her feet. 'You are suffering,' she
cried. 'You must go home, at once, at once, while I telephone to Dr.
Carpenter,' 'We will go together,' I said. 'We can telephone from there.'
But at this, the awful look came back into her face, and seeing her
forget my hurt, I forgot it, too, in dread of what she would say when she
found strength to speak.
"It was worse than anything I had imagined; she refused absolutely to go
back home. 'Carmel,' said she, 'I have done injustice to your youth. You
love him, too--not like a child but a woman. The tangle is worse than I
thought; your heart is caught in it, as well as mine, and you shall have
your chance. My death will give it to you.' I shook my head, pointing to
my cheek. She shook hers, and quietly, calmly said, 'You have never
looked so beautiful. Should we go back together and take up the old life,
the struggle which has undermined my conscience and my whole existence
would only begin again. I cannot face that ordeal, Carmel. The morning
light would bring me daily torture, the evening dusk a night of blasting
dreams. We three cannot live in this world together. I am the least loved
and so I should be the one to die. I am determined, Carmel. Life, with
me, has come to this.'
"I tried to dissuade her. I urged every plea, even that of my own
sacrifice. But she was no more her natural self. She had taken up the
note and read it during my entreaties, and my words fell on deaf
ears. 'Why, these words have killed me,' she cried crumpling the note
in her hand. 'What will a little poison do? It can only finish what he
"Poison! I remembered how I had heard her pushing about bottles in the
medicine cabinet, and felt my legs grow weak and my head swim. 'You will
not!' I cried, watching her hand, in terror of seeing it rise to her
breast. 'You are crazed to-night; to-morrow you will feel differently.'
"But the fixed set look of her bleak face gave me no hope. 'I shall never
feel differently. If I do not end it to-night, I shall do so soon. When a
heart like mine goes down, it goes down forever,' I could only shudder. I
did not know what to do, or which way to turn. She stood between me and
the door, and her presence was terrible. 'When I came here,' she said, 'I
brought a bottle of cordial with me and three glasses. I brought a little
phial of poison too, once ordered for sickness. I expected to find Elwood
here. If I had, I meant to drop the poison into one glass, and then fill
them all up with the cordial. We should have drunk, each one of us his
glass, and one of us would have fallen. I did not care which, you or
Elwood or myself. But he is not here, and the cast of the die is between
us two, unless you wish a certainty, Carmel,--in which case I will pour
out but one glass and drink that myself.'
"She was in a fever, now, and desperate. Death was in the room; I felt it
in my lifted hair, and in her strangely drawn face. If I screamed, who
would hear me? I never thought of the telephone, and I doubt if she would
have let me use it then. The power she had always exerted over me was
very strong in her at this moment; and not till afterwards did it cross
my mind that I had never asked her how she got to the house, or whether
we were as much alone in the building as I believed.
"'Shall I drink alone?' she repeated, and I cried out 'No'; at which her
hand went to her breast, as I had so long expected, and I saw the glitter
of a little phial as she drew it forth.
"'Oh, Adelaide!' I began; but she heeded me no more than the dead.
"On leaving home, she had put on a long coat with pockets and this coat
was still on her, and the pockets gaping. Thrusting her other hand into
one of these, she drew out a little flask covered with wicker, and set it
on a stand beside her. Then she pulled out two small glasses, and set
them down also, and then she turned her back. I could hear the drop, drop
of the liquor; and, dark as the room was, it seemed to turn darker, till
I put out my hands like one groping in a sudden night. But everything
cleared before me when she turned around again. Features set like hers
force themselves to be seen.
"She advanced, a glass in either hand. As she came, the floor swayed,
and the walls seemed to bow together; but they did not sway her. Step
by step, she drew near, and when she reached my side she smiled in my
face once. Then she said: 'Choose aright, dear heart. Leave the
poisoned one for me.'
"Fascinated, I stared at one glass, then at the other. Had either of her
hands trembled, I should have grasped at the glass it held; but not a
tremor shook those icy fingers, nor did her eyes wander to the right
hand or to the left. 'Adelaide!' I shrieked out. 'Toss them behind you.
Let us live--live!' But she only reiterated that awful word: 'Choose!'
and I dare not hesitate longer, lest I lose my chance to save her.
Groping, I touched a glass--I never knew which one--and drawing it from
her fingers, I lifted it to my mouth. Instantly her other hand rose. 'I
don't know which is which, myself,' she said, and drank. That made me
"The two glasses sent out a clicking sound as we set them back on the
stand. Then we waited, looking at each other. 'Which?' her lips seemed
to say. 'Which?' In another moment we knew. 'Your choice was the right
one,' said she, and she sank back into a chair. 'Don't leave me!' she
called out, for I was about to run shrieking out into the night. 'I--I
am happy now that it is all settled; but I do not want to die alone. Oh,
how hot I am!' And leaping up, she flung off her coat, and went gasping
about the room for air. When she sank down again, it was on the lounge;
and again I tried to fly for help, and again she would not let me.
Suddenly she started up, and I saw a great change in her. The heavy,
leaden look was gone; tenderness had come back to her eyes, and a human
anxious expression to her whole face. 'I have been mad!' she cried.
'Carmel, Carmel, what have I done to you, my more than sister--my child,
"I tried to soothe her--to keep down my awful fear and soothe her. But
the nearness of death had calmed her poor heart into its old love and
habitual thoughtfulness. She was terrified at my position. She recalled
our mother, and the oath she had taken at that mother's death-bed to
protect me and care for me and my brother. 'And I have failed to do
either,' she cried. 'Arthur, I have alienated, and you I am leaving to
unknown trouble and danger,'
"She was not to be comforted. I saw her life ebbing and could do nothing.
She clung to me while she called up all her powers, and made plans for me
and showed me a way of escape. I was to burn the note, fling two of the
glasses from the window and leave the other and the deadly phial near her
hand. This, before I left the room. Then I was to call up the police and
say there was something wrong at the club-house, but I was not to give my
name or ever acknowledge I was there. 'Nothing can save trouble,' she
said, 'but that trouble must not come near you. Swear that you will heed
my words--swear that you will do what I say,'
"I swore. All that she asked I promised. I was almost dying, too; and had
the light gone out and the rafters of the house fallen in and buried us
both, it would have been better. But the light burned on, and the life in
her eyes faded out, and the hands grasping mine relaxed. I heard one
little gasp; then a low prayer: 'Tell Arthur never--never--again to--'
Sobs--cries--veiled faces--then silence in the courtroom, too. It was
broken but by one sound, a heartrending sigh from the prisoner. But
nobody looked at him, and thank God!--nobody looked at me. Every eye was
on the face of this young girl, whose story bore such an impress of
truth, and yet was so contradictory of all former evidence. What
revelations were yet to follow. It would seem that she was speaking of
her sister's death.
But her sister had not died that way; her sister had been strangled.
Could this dainty creature, with beauty scarred and yet powerfully
triumphant, be the victim of an hallucination as to the cause of that
scar and the awesome circumstances which attended its infliction? Or,
harder still to believe, were these soul-compelling tones, these
evidences of grief, this pathetic yielding to the rights of the law in
face of the heart's natural shrinking from disclosures sacred as they
were tragic--were these the medium by which she sought to mislead justice
and to conceal truth?
Even I, with my memory of her looks as she faltered down the staircase on
that memorable night--pale, staring, her left hand to her cheek and
rocking from side to side in pain or terror--could not but ask if this
heart-rending story did not involve a still more terrible sequel. I
searched her face, and racked my very soul, in my effort to discern what
lay beneath this angelic surface--beneath this recital which if it were
true and the whole truth, would call not only for the devotion of a
lifetime, but a respect transcending love and elevating it to worship.
But, in her cold and quiet features, I could detect nothing beyond the
melancholy of grief; and the suspense from which all suffered, kept me
also on the rack, until at a question from Mr. Moffat she spoke again,
and we heard her say:
"Yes, she died that way, with her hands in mine. There was no one else
by; we were quite alone."
That settled it, and for a moment the revulsion of feeling threatened
to throw the court into tumult. But one thing restrained them. Not the
look of astonishment on her face, not the startled uplift of Arthur's
head, not the quiet complacency which in an instant replaced the
defeated aspect of the district attorney; but the gesture and attitude
of Mr. Moffat, the man who had put her on the stand, and who now from
the very force of his personality, kept the storm in abeyance, and by
his own composure, forced back attention to his witness and to his own
confidence in his case. This result reached, he turned again towards
Carmel, with renewed respect in his manner and a marked softening in his
aspect and voice.
"Can you fix the hour of this occurrence?" he asked. "In any way can you
locate the time?"
"No; for I did not move at once. I felt tied to that couch; I am very
young, and I had never seen death before. When I did get up, I hobbled
like an old woman and almost went distracted; but came to myself as I
saw the note on the floor--the note I was told to burn. Lifting it, I
moved towards the fireplace, but got a fright on the way, and stopped
in the middle of the floor and looked back. I thought I had heard my
"But the fancy passed as I saw how still she lay, and I went on, after a
while, and threw the note into the one small flame which was all that was
left of the fire. I saw it caught by a draught from the door behind me,
and go flaming up the chimney.
"Some of my trouble seemed to go with it, but a great one yet remained. I
didn't know how I could ever turn around again and see my sister lying
there behind me, with her face fixed in death, for which I was, in a
way, responsible. I was abjectly frightened, and knelt there a long time,
praying and shuddering, before I could rise again to my feet and move
about as I had to, since God had not stricken me and I must live my life
and do what my sister had bidden me. Courage--such courage as I had
had--was all gone from me now; and while I knew there was something else
for me to do before I left the room, I could not remember what it was,
and stood hesitating, dreading to lift my eyes and yet feeling that I
ought to, if only to aid my memory by a look at my sister's face.
"Suddenly I did look up, but it did not aid my memory; and, realising
that I could never think with that lifeless figure before me, I lifted a
pillow from the window-seat near by and covered her face. I must have
done more; I must have covered the whole lounge with pillows and
cushions; for, presently my mind cleared again, and I recollected that
it was something about the poison. I was to put the phial in her
hand--or was I to throw it from the window? Something was to be thrown
from the window--it must be the phial. But I couldn't lift the window,
so having found the phial standing on the table beside the little flask,
I carried it into the closet where there was a window opening inward,
and I dropped it out of that, and thought I had done all. But when I
came back and saw Adelaide's coat lying in a heap where she had thrown
it, I recalled that she had said something about this but what, I didn't
know. So I lifted it and put it in the closet--why, I cannot say. Then I
set my mind on going home.
"But there was something to do first--something not in that room. It was
a long time before it came to me; then the sight of the empty hall
recalled it. The door by which Adelaide had come in had never been
closed, and as I went towards it I remembered the telephone, and that I
was to call up the police. Lifting the candle, I went creeping towards
the front hall. Adelaide had commanded me, or I could never have
accomplished this task. I had to open a door; and when it swung to behind
me and latched, I turned around and looked at it, as if I never expected
it to open again. I almost think I fainted, if one can faint standing,
for when I knew anything, after the appalling latching of that door, I
was in quite another part of the room and the candle which I still held,
looked to my dazed eyes shorter than when I started with it from the
place where my sister lay.
"I was wasting time. The thought drove me to the table. I caught up the
receiver and when central answered, I said something about The Whispering
Pines and wanting help. This is all I remember about that.
"Some time afterward--I don't know when--I was stumbling down the stairs
on my way out. I had gone to--to the room again for my little bag; for
the keys were in it, and I dared not leave them. But I didn't stay a
minute, and I cast but one glance at the lounge. What happened afterward
is like a dream to me. I found the horse; the horse found the road; and
some time later I reached home. As I came within sight of the house I
grew suddenly strong again. The open stable door reminded me of my duty,
and driving in, I quickly unharnessed Jenny and put her away. Then I
dragged the cutter into place, and hung up the harness. Lastly, I locked
the door and carried the key with me into the house and hung it up on its
usual nail in the kitchen. I had obeyed Adelaide, and now I would go to
my room. That is what she would wish; but I don't know whether I did this
or not. My mind was full of Adelaide till confusion came--then
darkness--and then a perfect blank."
She had finished; she had done as she had been asked; she had told the
story of that evening as she knew it, from the family dinner till her
return home after midnight--and the mystery of Adelaide's death was as
great as ever. Did she realise this? Had I wronged this lovely,
tempestuous nature by suspicions which this story put to blush? I was
happy to think so--madly, unreasonably happy. Whatever happened, whatever
the future threatening Arthur or myself, it was rapture to be restored to
right thinking as regards this captivating and youthful spirit, who had
suffered and must suffer always--and all through me, who thought it a
pleasant pastime to play with hearts, and awoke to find I was playing
with souls, and those of the two noblest women I had ever known!
The cutting in of some half dozen questions from Mr. Moffat, which I
scarcely heard and which did not at all affect the status of the case as
it now stood, served to cool down the emotional element, which had almost
superseded the judicial, in more minds than those of the jury; and having
thus prepared his witness for an examination at other and less careful
hands, he testified his satisfaction at her replies, and turned her over
to the prosecution, with the time-worn phrase:
"Mr. District Attorney, the witness is yours."
Mr. Fox at once arose; the moment was ripe for conquest. He put his most
vital question first:
"In all this interview with your sister, did you remark any discoloration
on her throat?"
The witness's lips opened; surprise spoke from her every feature.
"Discoloration?" she repeated. "I do not know what you mean."
"Any marks darker than the rest of her skin on her throat or neck?"
"No. Adelaide had a spotless skin. It looked like marble as she lay
there. No, I saw no marks."
"Miss Cumberland, have you heard or read a full account of this trial?"
She was trembling, now. Was it from fear of the truth, or under that
terror of the unknown embodied in this question.
"I do not know," said she. "What I heard was from my nurse and Mr.
Moffat. I read very little, and that was only about the first days of
the trial and the swearing in of jurors. This is the first time I have
heard any mention made of marks, and I do not understand yet what you
District Attorney Fox cast at Mr. Moffat an eloquent glance, which that
gentleman bore unmoved; then turning back to the witness, he addressed
her in milder and more considerate tones than were usually heard from him
in cross-examination, and asked: "Did you hold your sister's hands all
the time she lay dying, as you thought, on the lounge?"
"And did not see her raise them once?"
"How was it when you let go of them? Where did they fall then?"
"On her breast. I laid them down softly and crossed them. I did not leave
her till I had done this and closed her eyes."
"And what did you do then?"
"I went for the note, to burn it."
"Miss Cumberland, in your direct examination, you said that you stopped
still as you crossed the floor at the time, thinking that your sister
called, and that you looked back at her to see."
"Were her hands crossed then?"
"Yes, sir, just the same."
"And afterward, when you came from the fire after waiting some little
time for courage?"
"Yes, yes. There were no signs of movement. Oh, she was
"No statements, Miss Cumberland. She looked the same, and you saw no
change in the position of her hands?"
"None; they were just as I left them."
"Miss Cumberland, you have told us how, immediately after taking the
poison, she staggered about the room, and sank first on a chair and then
on the lounge. Were you watching her then?"
"Oh, yes--every moment."
"Her hands as well as her face?"
"I don't know about her hands. I should have observed it if she had done
anything strange with them."
"Can you say she did not clutch or grip her throat during any of
"Yes, yes. I couldn't have forgotten it, if she had done that. I remember
every move she made so well. She didn't do that."
Mr. Fox's eye stole towards the jury. To a man, they were alert, anxious
for the next question, and serious, as the arbitrators of a man's life
ought to be.
Satisfied, he put the question: "When, after telephoning, you returned to
the room where your sister lay, you glanced at the lounge?"
"Yes, I could not help it."
"Was it in the same condition as when you left--the pillows, I mean?"
"I--I think so. I cannot say; I only half looked; I was terrified by it."
"Can you say they had not been disturbed?"
"No. I can say nothing. But what does--"
"Only the answer, Miss Cumberland. Can you tell us how those pillows were
"I'm afraid not. I threw them down quickly, madly, just as I collected
them. I only know that I put the window cushion down first. The rest fell
anyhow; but they quite covered her--quite."
"Hands and face?"
"Her whole body."
"And did they cover her quite when you came back?"
"They must have--Wait--wait! I know I have no right to say that, but I
cannot swear that I saw any change."
"Can you swear that there was no change--that the pillows and the window
cushion lay just as they did when you left the room?"
She did not answer. Horror seemed to have seized hold of her. Her eyes,
fixed on the attorney's face, wavered and, had they followed their
natural impulse, would have turned towards her brother, but her
fear--possibly her love--was her counsellor and she brought them back to
Mr. Fox. Resolutely, but with a shuddering insight of the importance of
her reply, she answered with that one weighty monosyllable which can
crush so many hopes, and even wreck a life:
At the next moment she was in Dr. Carpenter's arms. Her strength had
given way for the time, and the court was hastily adjourned, to give her
opportunity for rest and recuperation.
"WERE HER HANDS CROSSED THEN?"
Threescore and ten I can remember well:
Within the volume of which time, I have seen
Hours dreadful, and things strange; but this sore night
Hath trifled former knowledge.
I shall say nothing about myself at this juncture. That will come later.
I have something of quite different purport to relate.
When I left the court-room with the other witnesses, I noticed a man
standing near the district attorney. He was a very plain man--with no
especial claims to attention, that I could see, yet I looked at him
longer than I did at any one else, and turned and looked at him again as
I passed through the doorway.
Afterward I heard that he was Sweetwater, the detective from New York who
had had so much to do in unearthing the testimony against
Arthur,--testimony which in the light of this morning's revelations, had
taken on quite a new aspect, as he was doubtless the first to
acknowledge. It was the curious blending of professional disappointment
and a personal and characteristic appreciation of the surprising
situation, which made me observe him, I suppose. Certainly my heart and
mind were full enough not to waste looks on a commonplace stranger
unless there had been some such overpowering reason.
I left him still talking to Mr. Fox, and later received this account of
the interview which followed between them and Dr. Perry.
"Is this girl telling the truth?" asked District Attorney Fox, as soon as
the three were closeted and each could speak his own mind. "Doctor, what
do you think?"
"I do not question her veracity in the least. A woman who for purely
moral reasons could defy pain and risk the loss of a beauty universally
acknowledged as transcendent, would never stoop to falsehood even in her
desire to save a brother's life. I have every confidence in her. Fox, and
I think you may safely have the same."
"You believe that she burnt herself--intentionally?"
"I wouldn't disbelieve it--you may think me sentimental; I knew and loved
her father--for any fortune you might name."
"Say that you never knew her father; say that you had no more interest in
the girl or the case, than the jurors have? What then---?
"I should believe her for humanity's sake; for the sake of the happiness
it gives one to find something true and strong in this sordid work-a-day
world--a jewel in a dust-heap. Oh, I'm a sentimentalist, I acknowledge."
Mr. Fox turned to Sweetwater. "And you?"
"Mr. Fox, have you those tongs?"
"Yes, I forgot; they were brought to my office, with the other exhibits.
I attached no importance to them, and you will probably find them just
where I thrust them into the box marked 'Cumb.'"
They were in the district attorney's office, and Sweetwater at once rose
and brought forward the tongs.
"There is my answer," he said pointing significantly at one of the legs.
The district attorney turned pale, and motioned Sweetwater to carry them
back. He sat silent for a moment, and then showed that he was a man.
"Miss Cumberland has my respect," said he.
Sweetwater came back to his place.
Dr. Perry waited.
Finally Mr. Fox turned to him and put the anticipated question:
"You are satisfied with your autopsy? Miss Cumberland's death was due to
strangulation and not to the poison she took?"
"That was what I swore to, and what I should have to swear to again if
you placed me back on the stand. The poison, taken with her great
excitement, robbed her of consciousness, but there was too little of it,
or it was too old and weakened to cause death. She would probably have
revived, in time; possibly did revive. But the clutch of those fingers
was fatal; she could not survive it. It costs me more than you can ever
understand to say this, but questions like yours must be answered. I
should not be an honest man otherwise."
Sweetwater made a movement. Mr. Fox turned and looked at him critically.
"Speak out," said he.
But Sweetwater had nothing to say.
Neither had Dr. Perry. The oppression of an unsolved problem, involving
lives of whose value each formed a different estimate, was upon them all;
possibly heaviest upon the district attorney, the most serious portion of
whose work lay still before him.
To the relief of all, Carmel was physically stronger than we expected
when she came to retake the stand in the afternoon. But she had lost a
little of her courage. Her expectation of clearing her brother at a word
had left her, and with it the excitation of hope. Yet she made a noble
picture as she sat there, meeting, without a blush, but with an air of
sweet humility impossible to describe, the curious, all-devouring glances
of the multitude, some of them anxious to repeat the experience of the
morning; some of them new to the court, to her, and the cause for which
Mr. Fox kept nobody waiting. With a gentleness such as he seldom showed
to any witness for the defence, he resumed his cross-examination by
propounding the following question:
"Miss Cumberland, in your account of the final interview you had with
your sister, you alluded to a story you had once read together. Will you
tell us the name of this story?"
"It was called 'A Legend of Francis the First.' It was not a novel, but a
little tale she found in some old magazine. It had a great effect upon
us; I have never forgotten it."
"Can you relate this tale to us in a few words?"
"I will try. It was very simple; it merely told how a young girl marred
her beauty to escape the attentions of the great king, and what respect
he always showed her after that, even calling her sister."
Was the thrill in her voice or in my own heart, or in the
story--emphasised as it was by her undeniable attempt upon her own
beauty? As that last word fell so softly, yet with such tender
suggestion, a sensation of sympathy passed between us for the first time;
and I knew, from the purity of her look and the fearlessness of this
covert appeal to one she could not address openly, that the doubts I had
cherished of her up to this very moment were an outrage and that were it
possible or seemly, I should be bowed down in the dust at her feet--in
reality, as I was in spirit.
Others may have shared my feeling; for the glances which flew from her
face to mine were laden with an appreciation of the situation, which for
the moment drove the prisoner from the minds of all, and centred
attention on this tragedy of souls, bared in so cruel a way to the
curiosity of the crowd. I could not bear it. The triumph of my heart
battled with the shame of my fault, and I might have been tempted into
some act of manifest imprudence, if Mr. Fox had not cut my misery short
by recalling attention to the witness, with a question of the most vital
"While you were holding your sister's hands in what you supposed to be
her final moments, did you observe whether or not she still wore on her
finger the curious ring given her by Mr. Ranelagh, and known as her
"Yes--I not only saw it, but felt it. It was the only one she wore on her
The district attorney paused. This was an admission unexpected, perhaps,
by himself, which it was desirable to have sink into the minds of the
jury. The ring had not been removed by Adelaide herself; it was still on
her finger as the last hour drew nigh. An awful fact, if
established--telling seriously against Arthur. Involuntarily I glanced
his way. He was looking at me. The mutual glance struck fire. What I
thought, he thought--but possibly with a difference. The moment was
surcharged with emotion for all but the witness herself. She was calm;
perhaps she did not understand the significance of the occasion.
Mr. Fox pressed his advantage.
"And when you rose from the lounge and crossed your sister's hands?"
"It was still there; I put that hand uppermost."
"And left the ring on?"
"Oh, yes--oh, yes." Her whole attitude and face were full of protest.
"So that, to the best of your belief, it was still on your sister's
finger when you left the room?"
"Certainly, sir, certainly."
There was alarm in her tone now, she was beginning to see that her
testimony was not as entirely helpful to Arthur as she had been led to
expect. In her helplessness, she cast a glance of entreaty at her
brother's counsel. But he was busily occupied with pencil and paper, and
she received no encouragement unless it was from his studiously composed
manner and general air of unconcern. She did not know--nor did I know
then--what uneasiness such an air may cover.
Mr. Fox had followed her glances, and perhaps understood his adversary
better than she did; for he drew himself up with an appearance of
satisfaction as he asked very quietly:
"What material did you use in lighting the fire on the club-house
"Wood from the box, and a little kindling I found there."
"How large was this kindling?"
"Not very large; some few stray pieces of finer wood I picked out from
"And how did you light these?"
"With some scraps of paper I brought in my bag?"
"Oh--you brought scraps?"
"Yes. I had seen the box, seen the wood, but knew the wood would not
kindle without paper. So I brought some."
"Did the fire light quickly?"
"Not very quickly."
"You had trouble with it?"
"Yes, sir. But I made it burn at last."
"Are you in the habit of kindling fires in your own home?"
"Yes, on the hearth."
"You understand them?"
"I have always found it a very simple matter, if you have paper and
"And the draught is good."
"Wasn't the draught good at the club-house?"
"Not at first."
"Oh--not at first. When did you see a change?"
"When the note I was trying to burn flew up the chimney."
"I see. Was that after or before the door opened?"
"Did the opening of this door alter the temperature of the room?"
"I cannot say; I felt neither heat nor cold at any time."
"Didn't you feel the icy cold when you opened the dressing-closet window
to throw out the phial?"
"I don't remember."
"Wouldn't you remember if you had?"
"I cannot say."
Can you say whether you noticed any especial chill in the hall when you
went out to telephone?"
"My teeth were chattering but--"
"Had they chattered before?"
"They may have. I only noticed it then; but--"
"The facts, Miss Cumberland. Your teeth chattered while you were passing
through the hall. Did this keep up after you entered the room where you
found the telephone?"
"I don't remember; I was almost insensible."
"You don't remember that they did?"
"But you do remember having shut the door behind you?"
An open window in the hall! That was what he was trying to prove--open at
this time. From the expression of such faces of the jury as I could see,
I think he had proved it. The next point he made was in the same line.
Had she, in all the time she was in the building, heard any noises she
could not account for?
"Yes, many times."
"Can you describe these noises?"
"No; they were of all kinds. The pines sighed continually; I knew it was
the pines, but I had to listen. Once I heard a rushing sound--it was when
the pines stopped swaying for an instant--but I don't know what it was.
It was all very dreadful."
"Was this rushing sound such as a window might make on being opened?"
"Possibly. I didn't think of it at the time, but it might have been."
"From what direction did it come?"
"Back of me, for I turned my head about."
"Where were you at the time?"
"At the hearth. It was before Adelaide came in."
"A near sound, or a far?"
"Far, but I cannot locate it--indeed, I cannot. I forgot it in a moment."
"But you remember it now?"
"And cannot you remember _now_ any other noises than those you speak of?
That time you stepped into the hall--when your teeth chattered, you
know--did you hear nothing then but the sighing of the pines?"
She looked startled. Her hands went up and one of them clutched at her
throat, then they fell, and slowly--carefully--like one feeling his
"I had forgotten. I did hear something--a sound in one of the doorways.
It was very faint--a sigh--a--a--I don't know what. It conveyed nothing
to me then, and not much now. But you asked, and I have answered."
"You have done right, Miss Cumberland. The jury ought to know these
facts. Was it a human sigh?"
"It wasn't the sigh of the pines."
"And you heard it in one of the doorways? Which doorway?"
"The one opposite the room in which I left my sister."
"The doorway to the large hall?"
Oh, the sinister memories! The moments which I myself had spent
there--after this time of her passing through the hall, thank God!--but
not long after. And some one had been there before me! Was it Arthur? I
hardly had the courage to interrogate his face, but when I did, I, like
every one else who looked that way, met nothing but the quietude of a
fully composed man. There was nothing to be learned from him now; the
hour for self-betrayal was past. I began to have a hideous doubt.
Carmel being innocent, who could be guilty but he. I knew of no one.
The misery under which I had suffered was only lightened, not removed.
We were still to see evil days. The prosecution would prove its case,
and--But there was Mr. Moffat. I must not reckon without Moffat. He
had sprung one surprise. Was he not capable of springing another?
Relieved, I fixed my mind again upon the proceedings. What was Mr. Fox
asking her now?
"Miss Cumberland, are you ready to swear that you did not hear a step at
"Or see a face?"
"That you only heard a sigh?"
"A sigh, or something like one."
"Which made you stop--"
"No, I did not stop."
"You went right on?"
"Entering the telephone room?"
"The door of which you shut?"
"No, not intentionally."
"Did you shut that door yourself?"
"I do not know. I must have but I--"
"Never mind explanations. You do not know whether you shut it, or whether
some one else shut it?"
"I do not."
The words fell weightily. They seemed to strike every heart.
"Miss Cumberland, you have said that you telephoned for the police."
"I telephoned to central."
"Yes, for help."
"You were some minutes doing this, you say?"
"I have reason to think so, but I don't know definitely. The candle
seemed shorter when I went out than when I came in."
"Are you sure you telephoned for help?"
"Help was what I wanted--help for my sister. I do not remember my
"And then you left the building?"
"After going for my little bag."
"Did you see any one then?"
"Hear any one?"
"Did you see your sister again?"
"I have said that I just glanced at the couch."
"Were the pillows there?"
"Just as you had left them?"
"I have said that I could not tell."
"Wouldn't you know if they had been disturbed?"
"No, sir--not from the look I gave them."
"Then they might have been disturbed--might even have been
rearranged---without your knowing it?"
"Miss Cumberland, when you left the building, did you leave it alone?"
"Was the moon shining?"
"No, it was snowing."
"Did the moon shine when you went to throw the phial out of the window?"
"Yes, very brightly."
"Bright enough for you to see the links?"
"I didn't look at the links."
"Where were you looking?"
"When you threw the phial out?"
"What was there behind you?"
"A dead sister." Oh, the indescribable tone!
"Forgive me, Miss Cumberland, I do not want to trouble you, but was there
not something or some one in the adjoining room besides your dead sister,
to make you look back?"
"I saw no one. But I looked back--I do not know why."
"And didn't you turn at all?"
"I do not think so."
"You threw the phial out without looking?"
"How do you know you threw it out?"
"I felt it slip from my hand."
"Over the window ledge. I had pulled the window open before I turned my
head. I had only to feel for the sill. When I touched its edge, I opened
Triumph for the defence. Cross-examination on this point had only served
to elucidate a mysterious fact. The position of the phial, caught in the
vines, was accounted for in a very natural manner.
Mr. Fox shifted his inquiries.
"You have said that you wore a hat and coat of your brother's in coming
to the club-house? Did you keep these articles on?"
"No; I left them in the lower hall."
"Where in the lower hall?"
"On the rack there."
"Was your candle lit?"
"Not then, sir."
"Yet you found the rack?"
"I felt for it. I knew where it was."
"When did you light the candle?"
"After I hung up the coat."
"And when you came down? Did you have the candle then?"
"Yes, for a while. But I didn't have any light when I went for the coat
and hat. I remember feeling all along the wall. I don't know what I did
with the candlestick or the candle. I had them on the stairs; I didn't
have them when I put on the coat and hat."
I knew what she did with them. She flung them out of her hand upon the
marble floor. Should I ever forget the darkness swallowing up that face
of mental horror and physical suffering.
"Miss Cumberland, you are sure about having telephoned for help, and that
you mentioned The Whispering Pines in doing so?"
"Quite sure." Oh, what weariness was creeping into her voice!
"Then, of course, you left the door unlocked when you went out of the
"No--no, I didn't. I had the key and I locked it. But I didn't realise
this till I went to untie my horse; then I found the keys in my hand. But
I didn't go back."
"Do you mean that you didn't know you locked the door?"
"I don't remember whether I knew or not at the time. I do remember
being surprised and a little frightened when I saw the keys. But I
didn't go back."
"Yet you had telephoned for the police?"
"And then locked them out?"
"I didn't care--I didn't care."
An infinite number of questions followed. The poor child was near
fainting, but bore up wonderfully notwithstanding, contradicting herself
but seldom; and then only from lack of understanding the question, or
from sheer fatigue. Mr. Fox was considerate, and Mr. Moffat interrupted
but seldom. All could see that this noble-hearted girl, this heroine of
all hearts was trying to tell the truth, and sympathy was with her, even
that of the prosecution. But certain facts had to be brought out, among
them the blowing off of her hat on that hurried drive home through the
ever thickening snow-storm--a fact easily accounted for, when one
considered the thick coils of hair over which it had been drawn.
The circumstances connected with her arrival at the house were all
carefully sifted, but nothing new came up, nor was her credibility as a
witness shaken. The prosecution had lost much by this witness, but it had
also gained. No doubt now remained that the ring was still on the
victim's hand when she succumbed to the effects of the poison; and the
possibility of another presence in the house during the fateful interview
just recorded, had been strengthened, rather than lessened, by Carmel' s
hesitating admissions. And so the question hung poised, and I was
expecting to see her dismissed from the stand, when the district
attorney settled himself again into his accustomed attitude of inquiry,
and launched this new question:
"When you went into the stable to unharness your horse, what did you do
with the little bag you carried?"
"I took it out of the cutter."
"Set it down somewhere."
"Was there anything in the bag?"
"Not now. I had left the tongs at the club-house, and the paper I had
burned. I took nothing else."
"How about the candlestick?"
"That I carried in one of the pockets of my coat. That I left, too."
"Was that all you carried in your pockets?"
"Yes--the candlestick and the candle. The candlestick on one side and the
candle on the other."
"And these you did not have on your return?"
"No, I left both."
"So that your pockets were empty--entirely empty--when you drove into
your own gate?"
"Yes, sir, so far as I know. I never looked into them."
"And felt nothing there?"
"Took nothing out?"
"Then or when you unharnessed your horse, or afterward, as you passed
back to the house?"
"What path did you take in returning to the house?"
"There is only one."
"Did you walk straight through it?"
"As straight as I could. It was snowing heavily, and I was dizzy and felt
strange, I may have zigzagged a little."
"Did you zigzag enough to go back of the stable?"
"You are sure that you did not wander in back of the stable?"
"As sure as I can be of anything."
"Miss Cumberland, I have but a few more questions to ask. Will you look
at this portion of a broken bottle?"
"I see it, sir."
"Will you take it in your hand and examine it carefully?"
She reached out her hand; it was trembling visibly and her face expressed
a deep distress, but she took the piece of broken bottle and looked at it
before passing it back.
"Miss Cumberland, did you ever see that bit of broken glass before?"
She shook her head. Then she cast a quick look at her brother, and seemed
to gain an instantaneous courage.
"No," said she. "I may have seen a whole bottle like that, at some time
in the club-house, but I have no memory of this broken end--none at all."
"I am obliged to you, Miss Cumberland. I will trouble you no more
Then he threw up his head and smiled a slow, sarcastic smile at
AND I HAD SAID NOTHING!
O my soul's joy!
If after every tempest come such calms
May the winds blow till they have wakened death!
I had always loved her; that I knew even in the hour of my darkest
suspicion--but now I felt free to worship her. As the thought penetrated
my whole being, it made the night gladsome. Whatever awaited her,
whatever awaited Arthur, whatever awaited me, she had regenerated me. A
change took place that night in my whole nature, in my aspect of life and
my view of women. One fact rode triumphant above all other considerations
and possible distresses. Fate--I was more inclined now to call it
Providence--had shown me the heart of a great and true woman; and I was
free to expend all my best impulses in honouring her and loving her,
whether she ever looked my way again, received or even acknowledged a
homage growing out of such wrong as I had done her and her unfortunate
sister. It set a star in my firmament. It turned down all the ill-written
and besmirched leaves in my book of life and opened up a new page on
which her name, written in letters of gold, demanded clean work in the
future and a record which should not shame the aura surrounding that pure
name. Sorrow for the past, dread of the future--both were lost in the
glad rebound of my distracted soul. The night was dedicated to joy, and
to joy alone.
The next day being Sunday, I had ample time for the reaction bound to
follow hours of such exaltation. I had no wish for company. I even denied
myself to Clifton. The sight of a human face was more than I could bear
unless it were the one face; and that I could not hope for. But the
desire to see her, to hear from her--if only to learn how she had endured
the bitter ordeal of the day before--soon became unbearable. I must know
this much at any cost to her feelings or to mine.
After many a struggle with myself, I called up Dr. Carpenter on the
telephone. From him I learned that she was physically prostrated, but
still clear in mind and satisfied of her brother's innocence. This latter
statement might mean anything; but imparted by him to me, it seemed to be
capable of but one interpretation. I must be prepared for whatever
distrust of myself this confidence carried with it.
This was intolerable. I had to speak; I had to inquire if she had yet
heard the real reason why I was the first to be arrested.
A decided "No," cut short that agony. I could breathe again and proffer a
"Doctor, I cannot approach her; I cannot even write,--it would seem too
presumptuous. But tell her, as you find the opportunity, how I honour
her. Do not let her remain under the impression that I am not capable of
truly feeling what she has borne and must still bear."
"I will do what I can," was his reply, and he mercifully cut short the
This was the event of the morning.
In the afternoon I sat in my window thinking. My powers of reasoning had
returned, and the insoluble problem of Adelaide's murder occupied my
whole mind. With Carmel innocent, who was there left to suspect? Not
Arthur. His fingers were as guiltless as my own of those marks on her
throat. Of this I was convinced, difficult as it made my future. My mind
refused to see guilt in a man who could meet my eye with just the look he
gave me on leaving the courtroom, at the conclusion of his sister's
triumphant examination. It was a momentary glance, but I read it, I am
sure, quite truthfully.
"You are the man," it said; but not in the old, bitter, and revengeful
way voiced by his tongue before we came together in the one effort to
save Carmel from what, in our short-sightedness and misunderstanding of
her character, we had looked upon as the worst of humiliations and the
most desperate of perils. There was sadness in his conviction and an
honest man's regret--which, if noted by those about us--was far more
dangerous to my good name than the loudest of denunciations or the most
acrimonious of assaults. It put me in the worst of positions. But one
chance remained for me now.
The secret man of guilt might yet come to light; but how or through whose
agency, I found myself unable to conceive. I had neither the wit nor the
experience to untangle this confused web. Should I find the law in shape
to deal with it? A few days would show. With the termination of Arthur's
trial, the story of my future would begin. Meanwhile, I must have
patience and such strength as could be got from the present.
And so the afternoon passed.
With the coming on of night, my mood changed. I wanted air, movement. The
closeness of my rooms had become unbearable. As soon as the lamps were
lit in the street, I started out and I went--toward the cemetery.
I had no motive in choosing this direction for my walk. The road was an
open one, and I should neither avoid people nor escape the chilly blast
blowing directly in my face from the northeast. Whim, or shall I not say,
true feeling, carried me there though I was quite conscious, all the
time, of a strong desire to see Ella Fulton and learn from her the
condition of affairs--whether she was at peace, or in utter disgrace,
with her parents.
It was a cold night, as I have said, and there were but few people in the
streets. On the boulevard I met nobody. As I neared the cemetery, I
passed one man; otherwise I was, to all appearance, alone on this remote
avenue. The effect was sinister, or my mood made it so; yet I did not
hasten my steps; the hours till midnight had to be lived through in some
way, and why not in this? No companion would have been welcome, and had
the solitude been less perfect, I should have murmured at the prospect of
The cemetery gates were shut. This I had expected, but I did not need to
enter the grounds to have a view of Adelaide's grave. The Cumberland lot
occupied a knoll in close proximity to the fence, and my only intention
had been to pass this spot and cast one look within, in memory of
Adelaide. To reach the place, however, I had to turn a corner, and on
doing so I saw good reason, as I thought, for not carrying out my
intention at this especial time.
Some man--I could not recognise him from where I stood--had forestalled
me. Though the night was a dark one, sufficient light shone from the
scattered lamps on the opposite side of the way for me to discern his
intent figure, crouching against the iron bars and gazing, with an
intentness which made him entirely oblivious of my presence, at the very
plot--and on the very grave--which had been the end of my own pilgrimage.
So motionless he stood, and so motionless I myself became at this
unexpected and significant sight, that I presently imagined I could hear
his sighs in the dread quiet into which the whole scene had sunk.
Grief, deeper than mine, spoke in those labouring breaths. Adelaide was
mourned by some one as I, for all my remorse, could never mourn her.
_And I did not know the man_.
Was not this strange enough to rouse my wonder?
I thought so, and was on the point of satisfying this wonder by a quick
advance upon this stranger, when there happened an uncanny thing, which
held me in check from sheer astonishment. I was so placed, in reference
to one of the street lamps I have already mentioned, that my shadow fell
before me plainly along the snow. This had not attracted my attention
until, at the point of moving, I cast my eyes down and saw two shadows
where only one should be.
As I had heard no one behind me, and had supposed myself entirely alone
with the man absorbed in contemplation of Adelaide's grave, I experienced
a curious sensation which, without being fear, held me still for a
moment, with my eyes on this second shadow. It did not move, any more
than mine did. This was significant, and I turned.
A man stood at my back--not looking at me but at the fellow in front of
us. A quiet "hush!" sounded in my ear, and again I stood still. But only
for an instant.
The man at the fence--aroused by my movement, perhaps--had turned, and,
seeing our two figures, started to fly in the opposite direction.
Instinctively I darted forward in pursuit, but was soon passed by the man
behind me. This caused me to slacken; for I had recognised this latter,
as he flew by, as Sweetwater, the detective, and knew that he would do
this work better than myself.
But I reckoned without my host. He went only as far as the spot where the
man had been standing. When, in my astonishment, I advanced upon him
there, he wheeled about quite naturally in my direction and, accosting me
by name, remarked, in his genial off-hand manner:
"There is no need for us to tire our legs in a chase after that man. I
know him well enough."
"And who--" I began.
A quizzical smile answered me. The light was now in our faces, and I had
a perfect view of his. Its expression quite disarmed me; but I knew, as
well as if he had spoken, that I should receive no other reply to my
"Are you going back into town?" he asked, as I paused and looked down at
the umbrella swinging in his hand. I was sure that he had not held this
umbrella when he started by me on the run. "If so, will you allow me to
walk beside you for a little way?"
I could not refuse him; besides, I was not sure that I wanted to. Homely
as any man I had ever seen, there was a magnetic quality in his voice and
manner that affected even one so fastidious as myself. I felt that I had
rather talk to him, at that moment, than to any other person I knew. Of
course, curiosity had something to do with it, and that community of
interest which is the strongest bond that can link two people together.
"You are quite welcome," said I; and again cast my eye at the umbrella.
"You are wondering where I got this," he remarked, looking down at it in
his turn. "I found it leaning against the fence. It gives me all the clue
I need to our fleet-footed friend. Mr. Ranelagh, will you credit me with
good intentions if I ask a question or two which you may or may not be
willing to answer?"
"You may ask what you will," said I. "I have nothing to conceal, since
hearing Miss Cumberland's explanation of her presence at The
The ejaculation was eloquent. So was the silence which followed it.
Without good reason, perhaps, I felt the strain upon my heart loosen a
little. Was it possible that I should find a friend in this man?
"The question I am going to ask," he continued presently, "is one which
you may consider unpardonable. Let me first express an opinion. You have
not told all that you know of that evening's doings."
This called for no reply and I made none.
"I can understand your reticence, if your knowledge included the fact of
Miss Cumberland's heroic act and her sister's manner of death at the
"But it did not," I asserted, with deliberate emphasis. "I knew nothing
of either. My arrival happened later. Miss Cumberland's testimony gave me
my first enlightenment on these points. But I did know that the two
sisters were there together, for I had a glimpse of the younger as she
was leaving the house."
"You had. And are willing to state it now?"
"Assuredly. But any testimony of that kind is for the defence, and your
interests are all with the prosecution. Mr. Moffat is the man who should
talk to me."
"Does he know it?"
"Who told him?"
"Yes, it was my duty."
"You are interested then in seeing young Cumberland freed?"
"I must be; he is innocent."
The man at my side turned, shot at me one glance which I met quite
calmly, then, regulating his step by mine, moved on silently for a
moment--thinking, as it appeared to me, some very serious thoughts. It
was not until we had traversed a whole block in this way that he finally
put his question. Whether it was the one he had first had in mind, I
"Mr. Ranelagh, will you tell me why, when you found yourself in such a
dire extremity as to be arrested for this crime, on evidence as startling
as to call for all and every possible testimony to your innocence, you
preserved silence in regard to a fact which you must have then felt would
have secured you a most invaluable witness? I can understand why Mr.
Cumberland has been loth to speak of his younger sister's presence in the
club-house on that night; but his reason was not your reason. Yet you
have been as hard to move on this point as he."
Then it was I regretted my thoughtless promise to be candid with this
man. To answer were impossible, yet silence has its confidences, too. In
my dilemma, I turned towards him and just then we stepped within the
glare of an electric light pouring from some open doorway. I caught his
eye, and was astonished at the change which took place in him.
"Don't answer," he muttered, volubly. "It isn't necessary. I understand
the situation, now, and you shall never regret that you met Caleb
Sweetwater on your walk this evening. Will you trust me, sir? A detective
who loves his profession is no gabbler. Your secret is as safe with me as
if you had buried it in the grave."
And I had said nothing!
He started to go, then he stopped suddenly and observed, with one of his
"I once spent several minutes in Miss Carmel Cumberland's room, and I saw
a cabinet there which I found it very hard to understand. But its meaning
came to me later. I could not rest till it did."
At the next moment he was half way around a corner, and in another,
out of sight.
This was the evening's event.
THE ARROW OF DEATH
O if you rear this house against this house,
It will the wofulest division prove
That ever fell upon this cursed earth.
In my first glance around the court-room the next morning, I sought first
for Carmel and then for the detective Sweetwater. Neither was visible.
But this was not true of Ella. She had come in on her father's arm,
closely followed by the erect figure of her domineering mother. As I
scrutinised the latter's bearing, I seemed to penetrate the mystery of
her nature. Whatever humiliation she may have felt at the public
revelation of her daughter's weakness, it had been absorbed by her love
for that daughter, or had been forced, through the agency of her
indomitable will, to become a ministrant to her pride which was
unassailable. She had accepted the position exacted from her by the
situation, and she looked for no loss of prestige, either on her
daughter's or her own account. Such was the language of her eyes; and it
was a language which should have assured Ella that she had a better
friend in her mother than she had ever dreamed of. The entrance of the
defendant cut short my contemplation of any mere spectator. The change
in him was so marked that I was conscious of it before I really saw him.
Every eye had reflected it, and it was no surprise to me when I noted the
relieved, almost cheerful aspect of his countenance as he took his place
and met his counsel's greeting with a smile--the first, I believe, which
had been seen on his face since his sister's death. That counsel I had
already noted. He was cheerful also, but with a restrained cheerfulness.
His task was not yet over, and the grimness of Mr. Fox, and the
non-committal aspect of the jurymen, proved that it was not to be made
too easy for him.
The crier announced the opening of the court, and the defence proceeded
by the calling of Ella Fulton to the witness stand.
I need not linger over her testimony. It was very short and contained but
one surprise. She had stated under direct examination that she had waited
and watched for Arthur's return that whole night, and was positive that
he had not passed through their grounds again after that first time in
the early evening. This was just what I had expected from her. But the
prosecution remembered the snowfall, and in her cross-examination on this
point, she acknowledged that it was very thick, much too thick for her to
see her own gate distinctly; but added, that this only made her surer of
the fact she had stated; for finding that she could not see, she had
dressed herself for the storm and gone out into the driveway to watch
there, and had so watched until the town clock struck three.
This did not help the prosecution. Sympathy could not fail to be with
this young and tremulous girl, heroic in her love, if weak in other
respects, and when on her departure from the stand, she cast one
deprecatory glance at the man for whom she had thus sacrificed her pride,
and, meeting his eye fixed upon her with anything but ingratitude,
flushed and faltered till she with difficulty found her way, the
sentiments of the onlookers became so apparent that the judge's gavel was
called into requisition before order could be restored and the next
witness summoned to testify.
This witness was no less a person than Arthur himself. Recalled by his
counsel, he was reminded of his former statement that he had left the
club-house in a hurry because he heard his sister Adelaide's voice, and
was now asked if hers was the only voice he had heard.
His answer revealed much of his mind.
"No, I heard Carmel's answering her."
This satisfying Mr. Moffat, he was passed over to Mr. Fox, and a short
cross-examination ensued on this point.
"You heard both your sisters speaking?"
"Any of their words, or only their voices?"
"I heard one word."
"The word, 'Elwood.'"
"In which voice?"
"In that of my sister Adelaide."
"And you fled?"
"Leaving your two sisters alone in this cold and out-of-the-way house?"
"I did not think they were alone."
"Who did you think was with them?"
"I have already mentioned the name."
"Yet you left them?"
"Yes, I've already explained that. I was engaged in a mean act. I was
ashamed to be caught at it by Adelaide. I preferred flight. I had no
premonition of tragedy--any such tragedy as afterwards occurred. I
understood neither of my sisters and my thoughts were only for myself."
"Didn't you so much as try to account for their both being there?"
"Had you expected Adelaide to accompany your younger sister when you
harnessed the horse for her?"
"Had not this younger sister even enjoined secrecy upon you in asking you
to harness the horse?"
"Yet you heard the two together in this remote building without
"No, I must have felt surprise, but I didn't stop to analyse my feelings.
Afterward, I turned it over in my mind and tried to make something out of
the whole thing. But that was when I was far out on the links."
A losing game thus far. This the district attorney seemed to feel; but he
was not an ungenerous man though cursed (perhaps, I should say blessed,
considering the position he held) by a tenacity which never let him lose
his hold until the jury gave their verdict.
"You have a right to explain yourself fully," said he, after a momentary
struggle in which his generosity triumphed over his pride. "When you did
think of your sisters, what explanation did you give yourself of the
facts we have just been considering?"
"I could not imagine the truth, so I just satisfied myself that Adelaide
had discovered Carmel's intentions to ride into town and had insisted on
accompanying her. They were having it out, I thought, in the presence of
the man who had made all this trouble between them."
"And you left them to the task?"
"Yes, sir, but not without a struggle. I was minded several times to
return. This I have testified to before."
"Did this struggle consume forty minutes?"
"It must have and more, if I entered the hold in Cuthbert Road at the
hour they state."
Mr. Fox gave up the game, and I looked to be the next person called. But
it was not a part of Mr. Moffat's plan to weaken the effect of Carmel's
testimony by offering any weak corroboration of facts which nobody showed
the least inclination to dispute. Satisfied with having given the jury an
opportunity to contrast his client's present cheerfulness and manly
aspect with the sullenness he had maintained while in doubt of Carmel's
real connection with this crime, Mr. Moffat rested his case.
There was no testimony offered in rebuttal and the court took a recess.
When it reassembled I cast another anxious glance around. Still no
Carmel, nor any signs of Sweetwater. I could understand her absence, but
not his, and it was in a confusion of feeling which was fast getting the
upper hand of me, that I turned my attention to Mr. Moffat and the plea
he was about to make for his youthful client.
I do not wish to obtrude myself too much into this trial of another man
for the murder of my betrothed. But when, after a wait during which the
prisoner had a chance to show his mettle under the concentrated gaze of
an expectant crowd, the senior counsel for the defence slowly rose, and,
lifting his ungainly length till his shoulders lost their stoop and his
whole presence acquired a dignity which had been entirely absent from it
up to this decisive moment, I felt a sudden slow and creeping chill seize
and shake me, as I have heard people say they experienced when uttering
the common expression, "Some one is walking over my grave."
It was not that he glanced my way, for this he did not do; yet I received
a subtle message from him, by some telepathic means I could neither
understand nor respond to--a message of warning, or, possibly of simple
preparation for what his coming speech might convey.
It laid my spirits low for a moment; then they rose as those of a better
man might rise at the scent of danger. If he could warn, he could also
withhold. I would trust him, or I would, at least, trust my fate. And so,
good-bye to self. Arthur's life and Carmel's future peace were trembling
in the balance. Surely these were worth the full attention of the man who
loved the woman, who pitied the man.
At the next moment I heard these words, delivered in the slow and but
slightly raised tones with which Mr. Moffat invariably began his address:
"May it please the court and gentlemen of the jury, my learned friend of
the prosecution has shown great discretion in that, so far as appears
from the trend of his examinations, he is planning no attempt to explain
the many silences and the often forbidding attitude of my young client by
any theory save the obvious one--the natural desire of a brother to hide
his only remaining sister's connection with a tragedy of whose details he
was ignorant, and concerning which he had formed a theory derogatory to
her position as a young and well-bred woman.
"I am, therefore, spared the task of pressing upon your consideration
these very natural and, I may add, laudable grounds for my client's many
hesitations and suppressions--which, under other circumstances, would
militate so deeply against him in the eyes of an upright and impartial
jury. Any man with a heart in his breast, and a sense of honour in his
soul, can understand why this man--whatever his record, and however
impervious he may have seemed in the days of his prosperity and the
wilfulness of his youth--should recoil from revelations which would
attack the honour, if not the life, of a young and beautiful sister, sole
remnant of a family eminent in station, and in all those moral and civic
attributes which make for the honour of a town and lend distinction to
"Fear for a loved one, even in one whom you will probably hear described
as a dissipated man, of selfish tendencies and hitherto unbrotherly
qualities, is a great miracle-worker. No sacrifice seems impossible which
serves as a guard for one so situated and so threatened.
"Let us review his history. Let us disentangle, if we can, our knowledge
of what occurred in the clubhouse, from his knowledge of it at the time
he showed these unexpected traits of self-control and brotherly anxiety,
which you will yet hear so severely scored by my able opponent. His was a
nature in which honourable instincts had forever battled with the secret
predilections of youth for independence and free living. He rebelled at
all monition; but this did not make him altogether insensible to the
secret ties of kinship, or the claims upon his protection of two highly
gifted sisters. Consciously or unconsciously, he kept watch upon the two;
and when he saw that an extraneous influence was undermining their mutual
confidence, he rebelled in his heart, whatever restraint he may have put
upon his tongue and actions. Then came an evening, when, with heart
already rasped by a personal humiliation, he saw a letter passed. You
have heard the letter and listened to its answer; but he knew nothing
beyond the fact--a fact which soon received a terrible significance from
the events which so speedily followed."
Here Mr. Moffat recapitulated those events, but always from the
standpoint of the defendant--a standpoint which necessarily brought
before the jury the many excellent reasons which his client had for
supposing this crime to have resulted solely from the conflicting
interests represented by that furtively passed note, and the visit of two
girls instead of one to The Whispering Pines. It was very convincing,
especially his picture of Arthur's impulsive flight from the club-house
at the first sound of his sisters' voices.
"The learned counsel for the people may call this unnatural," he cried.
"He may say that no brother would leave the place under such
circumstances, whether sober or not sober, alive to duty or dead to
it--that curiosity would hold him there, if nothing else. But he forgets,
if thus he thinks and thus would have you think, that the man who now
confronts you from the bar is separated by an immense experience from the
boy he was at that hour of surprise and selfish preoccupation.
"You who have heard the defendant tell how he could not remember if he
carried up one or two bottles from the kitchen, can imagine the blank
condition of this untutored mind at the moment when those voices fell
upon his ear, calling him to responsibilities he had never before
shouldered, and which he saw no way of shouldering now. In that first
instant of inconsiderate escape, he was alarmed for himself,--afraid of
the discovery of the sneaking act of which he had just been guilty--not
fearful for his sisters. _You_ would have done differently; but you are
all men disciplined to forget yourselves and think first of others,
taught, in the school of life to face responsibility rather than shirk
it. But discipline had not yet reached this unhappy boy--the slave, so
far, of his unfortunate habits. It began its work later; yet not much
later. Before he had half crossed the golf-links, the sense of what he
had done stopped him in middle course, and, reckless of the oncoming
storm, he turned his back upon the place he was making for, only to
switch around again, as craving got the better of his curiosity, or of
that deeper feeling to which my experienced opponent will, no doubt,
touchingly allude when he comes to survey this situation with you.
"The storm, continuing, obliterated his steps as fast as the ever
whitening spaces beneath received them; but if it had stopped then and
there, leaving those wandering imprints to tell their story, what a tale
we might have read of the first secret conflict in this awakening soul! I
leave you to imagine this history, and pass to the bitter hour when,
racked by a night of dissipation, he was aroused, indeed, to the
magnitude of his fault and the awful consequences of his self-indulgence,
by the news of his elder sister's violent death and the hardly less
pitiful condition of the younger.
"The younger!" The pause he here made was more eloquent than any words.
"Is it for me to laud her virtues, or to seek to impress upon you in this
connection, the overwhelming nature of the events which in reality had
laid her mind and body low? You have seen her; you have heard her; and
the memory of the tale she has here told will never leave you, or lose
its hold upon your sympathies or your admiration. If everything else
connected with this case is forgotten, the recollection of that will
remain. You, and I, and all who wait upon your verdict, will in due time
pass from among the living, and leave small print behind us on the sands
of time. But her act will not die, and to it I now offer the homage of
silence, since that would best please her heroic soul, which broke the
bonds of womanly reserve only to save from an unmerited charge a falsely
The restraint and yet the fire with which Mr. Moffat uttered these simple
words, lifted all hearts and surcharged the atmosphere with an emotion
rarely awakened in a court of law. Not in my pulses alone was started the
electric current of renewed life. The jury, to a man, glowed with
enthusiasm, and from the audience rose one long and suppressed sigh of
answering feeling, which was all the tribute he needed for his
eloquence--or Carmel for her uncalculating, self-sacrificing deed. I
could have called upon the mountains to cover _me_; but--God be
praised--no one thought of me in that hour. Every throb, every thought
was for her.
At the proper moment of subsiding feeling, Mr. Moffat again raised
"Gentlemen of the jury, you have seen point after point of the
prosecution's case demolished before your eyes by testimony which no one
has had the temerity to attempt to controvert. What is left? Mr. Fox will
tell you--three strong and unassailable facts. The ring found in the
murdered woman's casket, the remnants of the tell-tale bottle discovered
in the Cumberland stable, and the opportunity for crime given by the
acknowledged presence of the defendant on or near the scene of death. He
will harp on these facts; he will make much of them; and he will be
justified in doing so, for they are the only links remaining of the
strong chain forged so carefully against my client.
"But are these points so vital as they seem? Let us consider them, and
see. My client has denied that he dropped anything into his sister's
casket, much less the ring missing from that sister's finger. Dare you,
then, convict on this point when, according to count, ten other persons
were seen to drop flowers into this very place--any one of which might
have carried this object with it?
"And the bit of broken bottle found in or near the defendant's own
stable! Is he to be convicted on the similarity it offers to the one
known to have come from the club-house wine-vault, while a reasonable
doubt remains of his having been the hand which carried it there? No!
Where there is a reasonable doubt, no high-minded jury will convict;
and I claim that my client has made it plain that there is such a
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