Read BOOK FOUR - WHAT THE PINES WHISPERED of The House of the Whispering Pines, free online book, by Anna Katharine Green, on ReadCentral.com.

CHAPTER I - “I REMEMBERED THE ROOM”

MERCURY. ­If thou mightst dwell among the Gods the while
          Lapped in voluptuous joy?

PROMETHEUS. ­I would not quit
             This bleak ravine, these unrepentant pains.

Prometheus Unbound.

Great moments, whether of pain, surprise, or terror, awaken in the startled breast very different emotions from those we are led to anticipate from the agitation caused by lesser experiences.  As Carmel disclosed her features to the court, my one absorbing thought was:  Would she look at me?  Could I hope for a glance of her eye?  Did I wish it?  My question was answered before Mr. Moffat had regained his place and turned to address the court.

As her gaze passed from her brother’s face, it travelled slowly and with growing hesitation over the countenances of those near her, on and on past the judge, past the jury, until they reached the spot where I sat.  There they seemed to falter, and the beating of my heart became so loud that I instinctively shrank away from my neighbour.  By so doing, I drew her eye, which fell full upon mine for one overwhelming minute; then she shrank and looked away, but not before the colour had risen in a flood to her cheek.

The hope which had sprung to life under her first beautiful aspect, vanished in despair at sight of this flush.  For it was not one of joy, or surprise, or even of unconscious sympathy.  It was the banner of a deep, unendurable shame.  Versed in her every expression, I could not mistake the language of her dismayed soul, at this, the most critical instant of her life.  She had hoped to find me absent; she was overwhelmed to find me there.  Could she, with a look, have transported me a thousand miles from this scene of personal humiliation and unknown, unimaginable outcome, she would have bestowed that look and ignored the consequences.

Nor was I behind her in the reckless passion of the moment.  Could I, by means of a wish, have been transported those thousand miles, I should even now have been far from a spot where, in the face of a curious crowd, busy in associating us together, I must submit to the terror of hearing her speak and betray herself to these watchful lawyers, and to the just and impartial mind of the presiding judge.

But the days of magic had passed.  I could not escape the spot; I could not escape her eye.  The ordeal to which she was thus committed, I must share.  As she advanced step by step upon her uncertain road, it would be my unhappy fate to advance with her, in terror of the same pitfalls, with our faces set towards the same precipice ­slipping, fainting, experiencing agonies together.  She knew my secret, and I, alas! knew hers.  So I interpreted this intolerable, overwhelming blush.

Recoiling from the prospect, I buried my face in my hands, and so missed the surprising sight of this young girl, still in her teens, conquering a dismay which might well unnerve one of established years and untold experiences.  In a few minutes, as I was afterward told by my friends, her features had settled into a strange placidity, undisturbed by the levelled gaze of a hundred eyes.  Her whole attention was concentrated on her brother, and wavered only, when the duties of the occasion demanded a recognition of the various gentlemen concerned in the trial.

Mr. Moffat prefaced his examination by the following words: 

“May it please your Honour, I wish to ask the indulgence of the court in my examination of this witness.  She is just recovering from a long and dangerous illness; and while I shall endeavour to keep within the rules of examination, I shall be grateful for any consideration which may be shown her by your Honour and by the counsel on the other side.”

Mr. Fox at once rose.  He had by this time recovered from his astonishment at seeing before him, and in a fair state of health, the young girl whom he had every reason to believe to be still in a condition of partial forgetfulness at Lakewood, and under the care of a woman entirely in his confidence and under his express orders.  He had also mastered his chagrin at the triumph which her presence here, and under these dramatic circumstances, had given his adversary.  Moved, perhaps, by Miss Cumberland’s beauty, which he saw for the first time ­or, perhaps, by the spectacle of this beauty devoting its first hours of health to an attempt to save a brother, of whose precarious position before the law she had been ignorant up to this time ­or more possibly yet, by a fear that it might be bad tactics to show harshness to so interesting a personality before she had uttered a word of testimony, he expressed in warmer tones than usual, his deep desire to extend every possible indulgence.

Mr. Moffat bowed his acknowledgments, and waited for his witness to take the oath, which she did with a simple grace which touched all hearts, even that of her constrained and unreconciled brother.  Compelled by the silence and my own bounding pulses to look at her in my own despite, I caught the sweet and elevated look with which she laid her hand on the Book, and asked myself if her presence here was not a self-accusation, which would bring satisfaction to nobody ­which would sink her and hers into an ignominy worse than the conviction of the brother whom she was supposedly there to save.

Tortured by this fear, I awaited events in indescribable agitation.

The cool voice of Mr. Moffat broke in upon my gloom.  Carmel had reseated herself, after taking the oath, and the customary question could be heard: 

“Your name, if you please.”

“Carmel Cumberland.”

“Do you recognise the prisoner, Miss Cumberland?”

“Yes; he is my brother.”

A thrill ran through the room.  The lingering tone, the tender accent, told.  Some of the feeling she thus expressed seemed to pass into every heart which contemplated the two.  From this moment on, he was looked upon with less harshness; people showed a disposition to discern innocence, where, perhaps, they had secretly desired, until now, to discover guilt.

“Miss Cumberland, will you be good enough to tell us where you were, at or near the hour of ten, on the evening of your sister’s death?”

“I was in the club-house ­in the house you call The Whispering Pines.”

At this astounding reply, unexpected by every one present save myself and the unhappy prisoner, incredulity, seasoned with amazement, marked every countenance.  Carmel Cumberland in the club-house that night ­she who had been found at a late hour, in her own home, injured and unconscious!  It was not to be believed ­or it would not have been, if Arthur with less self-control than he had hitherto maintained, had not shown by his morose air and the silent drooping of his head that he accepted this statement, wild and improbable as it seemed.  Mr. Fox, whose mind without doubt had been engaged in a debate from the first, as to the desirability of challenging the testimony of this young girl, whose faculties had so lately recovered from a condition of great shock and avowed forgetfulness that no word as yet had come to him of her restored health, started to arise at her words; but noting the prisoner’s attitude, he hastily reseated himself, realising, perhaps, that evidence of which he had never dreamed lay at the bottom of the client’s manner and the counsel’s complacency.  If so, then his own air of mingled disbelief and compassionate forbearance might strike the jury unfavourably; while, on the contrary, if his doubts were sound, and the witness were confounding the fancies of her late delirium with the actual incidents of this fatal night, then would he gain rather than lose by allowing her to proceed until her testimony fell of its own weight, or succumbed before the fire of his cross-examination.

Modifying his manner, he steadied himself for either exigency, and, in steadying himself, steadied his colleagues also.

Mr. Moffat, who saw everything, smiled slightly as he spoke encouragingly to his witness, and propounded his next question: 

“Miss Cumberland, was your sister with you when you went to the club-house?”

“No; we went separately”

“How?  Will you explain?”

“I drove there.  I don’t know how Adelaide went.”

“You drove there?”

“Yes.  I had Arthur harness up his horse for me and I drove there.”

A moment of silence; then a slow awakening ­on the part of judge, jury, and prosecution ­to the fact that the case was taking a turn for which they were ill-prepared.  To Mr. Moffat, it was a moment of intense self-congratulation, and something of the gratification he felt crept into his voice as he said: 

“Miss Cumberland, will you describe this horse?”

“It was a grey horse.  It has a large black spot on its left shoulder.”

“To what vehicle was it attached?”

“To a cutter ­my brother’s cutter.”

“Was that brother with you?  Did he accompany you in your ride to The Whispering Pines?”

“No, I went quite alone.”

Entrancement had now seized upon every mind.  Even if her testimony were not true, but merely the wanderings of a mind not fully restored, the interest of it was intense.  Mr. Fox, glancing at the jury, saw there would be small use in questioning at this time the mental capacity of the witness.  This was a story which all wished to hear.  Perhaps he wished to hear it, too.

Mr. Moffat rose to more than his accustomed height.  The light which sometimes visited his face when feeling, or a sense of power, was strongest in him, shone from his eye and irradiated his whole aspect as he inquired tellingly: 

“And how did you return?  With whom, and by what means, did you regain your own house?”

The answer came, with simple directness: 

“In the same way I went.  I drove back in my brother’s cutter and being all alone just as before, I put the horse away myself, and went into my empty home and up to Adelaide’s room, where I lost consciousness.”

The excitement, which had been seething, broke out as she ceased; but the judge did not need to use his gavel, or the officers of the court exert their authority.  At Mr. Moffat’s lifted hand, the turmoil ceased as if by magic.

“Miss Cumberland, do you often ride out alone on nights like that?”

“I never did before.  I would not have dared to do it then, if I had not taken a certain precaution.”

“And what was this precaution?”

“I wore an old coat of my brother’s over my dress, and one of his hats on my head.”

It was out ­the fact for the suppression of which I had suffered arrest without a word; because of which Arthur had gone even further, and submitted to trial with the same constancy.  Instinctively, his eyes and mine met, and, at that moment, there was established between us an understanding that was in strong contrast to the surrounding turmoil, which now exceeded all limits, as the highly wrought up spectators realised that these statements, if corroborated, destroyed one of the strongest points which had been made by the prosecution.  This caused a stay in the proceedings until order was partially restored, and the judge’s voice could be heard in a warning that the court-room would be cleared of all spectators if this break of decorum was repeated.

Meanwhile, my own mind had been busy.  I had watched Arthur; I had watched Mr. Moffat.  The discouragement of the former, the ill-concealed elation of the latter, proved the folly of any hope, on my part, that Carmel would be spared a full explanation of what I would have given worlds to leave in the darkness and ignorance of the present moment.  To save Arthur, unwilling as he was, she was to be allowed to consummate the sacrifice which the real generosity of her heart drove her into making.  Before these doors opened again and sent forth the crowd now pulsating under a preamble of whose terrible sequel none as yet dreamed, I should have to hear those sweet lips give utterance to the revelation which would consign her to opprobrium, and break, not only my heart, but her brother’s.

Was there no way to stop it?  The district attorney gave no evidence of suspecting any issue of this sort, nor did the friendly and humane judge.  Only the scheming Moffat knew to what all this was tending, and Moffat could not be trusted.  The case was his and he would gain it if he could.  Tender and obliging as he was in his treatment of the witness, there was iron under the velvet of his glove.  This was his reputation; and this I must now see exemplified before me, without the power to stop it.  The consideration with which he approached his subject did not deceive me.

“Miss Cumberland, will you now give the jury the full particulars of that evening’s occurrences, as witnessed by yourself.  Begin your relation, if you please, with an account of the last meal you had together.”

Carmel hesitated.  Her youth ­her conscience, perhaps ­shrank in manifest distress from this inquisition.

“Ask me a question,” she prayed.  “I do not know how to begin.”

“Very well.  Who were seated at the dinner-table that night?”

“My sister, my brother, Mr. Ranelagh, and myself.”

“Did anything uncommon happen during the meal?”

“Yes, my sister ordered wine, and had our glasses all filled.  She never drank wine herself, but she had her glass filled also.  Then she dismissed Helen, the waitress; and when the girl was gone, she rose and held up her glass, and invited us to do the same.  ’We will drink to my coming marriage,’ said she; but when we had done this, she turned upon Arthur, with bitter words about his habits, and, declaring that another bottle of wine should never be opened again in the house, unclosed her fingers and let her glass drop on the table where it broke.  Arthur then let his fall, and I mine.  We all three let our glasses fall and break.”

“And Mr. Ranelagh?”

“He did not let his fall.  He set it down on the cloth.  He had not drank from it.”

Clear, perfectly clear ­tallying with what we had heard from other sources.  As this fact forced itself in upon the minds of the jury, new light shone in every eye and each and all waited eagerly for the next question.

It came with a quiet, if not insinuating, intonation.

“Miss Cumberland, where were you looking when you let your glass fall?”

My heart gave a bound.  I remembered that moment well.  So did she, as could be seen from the tremulous flush and the determination with which she forced herself to speak.

“At Mr. Ranelagh,” she answered, finally.

“Not at your brother?”

“No.”

“And at whom was Mr. Ranelagh looking?”

“At ­at me.”

“Not at your sister?”

“No.”

“Was anything said?”

“Not then.  With the dropping of the glasses, we all drew back from the table, and walked towards a little room where we sometimes sat before going into the library.  Arthur went first, and Mr. Ranelagh and I followed, Adelaide coming last.  We ­we went this way into the little room and ­what other question do you wish to ask?” she finished, with a burning blush.

Mr. Moffat was equal to the appeal.

“Did anything happen?  Did Mr. Ranelagh speak to you or you to him, or did your sister Adelaide speak?”

“No one spoke; but Mr. Ranelagh put a little slip of paper into my hand ­a ­a note.  As he did this, my brother looked round.  I don’t know whether he saw the note or not; but his eye caught mine, and I may have blushed.  Next moment he was looking past me; and presently he had flung himself out of the room, and I heard him going upstairs.  Adelaide had joined me by this time, and Mr. Ranelagh turned to speak to her, and ­and I went over to the book-shelves to read my note.”

“And did you read it then?”

“No, I was afraid.  I waited till Mr. Ranelagh was gone; then I went up to my room and read it.  It was not a ­a note to be glad of.  I mean, proud of.  I’m afraid I was a little glad of it at first.  I was a wicked girl.”

Mr. Moffat glanced at Mr. Fox; but that gentleman, passing over this artless expression of feeling, as unworthy an objection, he went steadily on: 

“Miss Cumberland, before you tell us about this note, will you be good enough to inform us whether any words passed between you and your sister before you went upstairs?”

“Oh, yes; we talked.  We all three talked, but it was about indifferent matters.  The servants were going to a ball, and we spoke of that.  Mr. Ranelagh did not stay long.  Very soon he remarked that he had a busy evening before him, and took his leave.  I was not in the room with them when he did this.  I was in the adjoining one, but I heard his remark and saw him go.  I did not wait to talk to Adelaide.”

“Now, about the note?”

“I read it as soon as I reached my room.  Then I sat still for a long time.”

“Miss Cumberland, pardon my request, but will you tell us what was in that note?”

She lifted her patient eyes, and looked straight at her brother.  He did not meet her gaze; but the dull flush which lit up the dead-white of his cheek showed how he suffered under this ordeal.  At me she never glanced; this was the only mercy shown me that dreadful morning.  I grew to be thankful for it as she went on.

“I do not remember the words,” she said, finally, as her eyes fell again to her lap.  “But I remember its meaning.  It was an invitation for me to leave town with him that very evening and be married at some place he mentioned.  He said it would be the best way to ­to end ­matters.”

This brought Mr. Fox to his feet.  For all his self-command, he had been perceptibly growing more and more nervous as the examination proceeded; and he found himself still in the dark as to his opponent’s purpose and the character of the revelations he had to fear.  Turning to the judge, he cried: 

“This testimony is irrelevant and incompetent, and I ask to have it stricken out.”

Mr. Moffat’s voice, as he arose to answer this, was like honey poured upon gall.

“It is neither irrelevant nor incompetent, and, if it were, the objection comes too late.  My friend should have objected to the question.”

“The whole course of counsel has been very unusual,” began Mr. Fox.

“Yes, but so is the case.  I beg your Honour to believe that, in some of its features, this case is not only unusual, but almost without a precedent.  That it may be lightly understood, and justice shown my client, a full knowledge of the whole family’s experiences during those fatal hours is not only desirable, but absolutely essential.  I beg, therefore, that my witness may be allowed to proceed and tell her story in all its details.  Nothing will be introduced which will not ultimately be seen to have a direct bearing upon the attitude of my client towards the crime for which he stands here arraigned.”

“The motion is denied,” declared the judge.

Mr. Fox sat down, to the universal relief of all but the two persons most interested ­Arthur and myself.

Mr. Moffat, generous enough or discreet enough to take no note of his opponent’s discomfiture, lifted a paper from the table and held it towards the witness.

“Do you recognise these lines?” he asked, placing the remnants of my half-burned communication in her hands.

She started at sight of them.  Evidently she had never expected to see them again.

“Yes,” she answered, after a moment.  “This is a portion of the note I have mentioned.”

“You recognise it as such?”

“I do.”

Her eyes lingered on the scrap, and followed it as it was passed back and marked as an exhibit.

Mr. Moffat recalled her to the matter in hand.

“What did you do next, Miss Cumberland?”

“I answered the note.”

“May I ask to what effect?”

“I refused Mr. Ranelagh’s request.  I said that I could not do what he asked, and told him to wait till the next day, and he would see how I felt towards him and towards Adelaide.  That was all.  I could not write much.  I was suffering greatly.”

“Suffering in mind, or suffering in body?”

“Suffering in my mind.  I was terrified, but that feeling did not last very long.  Soon I grew happy, happier than I had been in weeks, happier than I had ever been in all my life before.  I found that I loved Adelaide better than I did myself.  This made everything easy, even the sending of the answer I have told you about to Mr. Ranelagh.”

“Miss Cumberland, how did you get this answer to Mr. Ranelagh?”

“By means of a gentleman who was going away on the very train I had been asked to leave on.  He was a guest next door, and I carried the note in to him.”

“Did you do this openly?”

“No.  I’m afraid not; I slipped out by the side door, in as careful a way as I could.”

“Did this attempt at secrecy succeed?  Were you able to go and come without meeting any one?”

“No.  Adelaide was at the head of the stairs when I came back, standing there, very stiff and quiet.”

“Did she speak to you?”

“No.  She just looked at me; but it wasn’t a common look.  I shall never forget it.”

“And what did you do then?”

“I went to my room.”

“Miss Cumberland, did you sec anybody else when you came in at this time?”

“Yes, our maid Helen.  She was just laying down a bunch of keys on the table in the lower hall.  I stopped and looked at the keys.  I had recognised them as the ones I had seen in Mr. Ranelagh’s hands many times.  He had gone, yet there were his keys.  One of them unlocked the club-house.  I noticed it among the others, but I didn’t touch it then.  Helen was still in the hall, and I ran straight upstairs, where I met my sister, as I have just told you.”

“Miss Cumberland, continue the story.  What did you do after re-entering your room?”

“I don’t know what I did first.  I was very excited ­elated one minute, deeply wretched and very frightened the next.  I must have sat down; for I was shaking very much, and felt a little sick.  The sight of that key had brought up pictures of the club-house; and I thought and thought how quiet it was, and how far away and ­how cold it was too, and how secret.  I would go there for what I had to do; there!  And then I saw in my fancy one of its rooms, with the moon in it, and ­but I soon shut my eyes to that.  I heard Arthur moving about his room, and this made me start up and go out into the hall again.”

During all this Mr. Fox had sat by, understanding his right to object to the witness’s mixed statements of fact and of feelings, and quite confident that his objections would be sustained.  But he had determined long since that he would not interrupt the witness in her relation.  The air of patience he assumed was sufficiently indicative of his displeasure, and he confined himself to this.  Mr. Moffat understood, and testified his appreciation by a slight bow.

Carmel, who saw nothing, resumed her story.

“Arthur’s room is near, and Adelaide’s far off; but I went to Adelaide’s first.  Her door was shut and when I went to open it I found it locked.  Calling her name, I said that I was tired and would be glad to say good night.  She did not answer at once.  When she did, her voice was strange, though what she said was very simple.  I was to please myself; she was going to retire, too.  And then she tried to say good night, but she only half said it, like one who is choked with tears or some other dreadful emotion.  I cannot tell you how this made me feel ­but you don’t care for that.  You want to know what I did ­what Adelaide did.  I will tell you, but I cannot hurry.  Every act of the evening was so crowded with purpose; all meant so much.  I can see the end, but the steps leading to it are not so clear.”

“Take your time, Miss Cumberland; we have no wish to hurry you.”

“I can go on now.  The next thing I did was to knock at Arthur’s door.  I heard him getting ready to go out, and I wanted to speak to him before he went.  When he heard me, he opened the door and let me in.  He began at once on his grievances, but I could not listen to them.  I wanted him to harness the grey mare for me and leave it standing in the stable.  I explained the request by saying that it was necessary for me to see a certain friend of mine immediately, and that no one would notice me in the cutter under the bear-skins.  He didn’t approve, but I persuaded him.  I even persuaded him to wait till Zadok was gone, so that Adelaide would know nothing about it.  He looked glum, but he promised.

“He was going away when I heard Adelaide’s steps in the adjoining room.  This frightened me.  The partition is very thin between these two rooms, and I was afraid she had heard me ask Arthur for the grey mare and cutter.  I could hear her rattling the bottles in the medicine cabinet hanging on this very wall.  Looking back at Arthur, I asked him how long Adelaide had been there.  He said, ‘For some time.’  This sent me flying from the room.  I would join her, and find out if she had heard.  But I was too late.  As I stepped into the hall I saw her disappearing round the corner leading to her own room.  This convinced me that she had heard nothing, and, light of heart once more, I went back to my own room, where I collected such little articles as I needed for the expedition before me.

“I had hardly done this when I heard the servants on the walk outside, then Arthur going down.  The impulse to see and speak to him again was irresistible.  I flew after him and caught him in the lower hall.  ‘Arthur,’ I cried, ‘look at me, look at me well, and then ­kiss me!’ And he did kiss me ­I’m glad when I think of it, though he did say, next minute:  ’What is the matter with you?  What are you going to do?  To meet that villain?’

“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 to-morrow.’

“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?”

“Open.”

“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.

CHAPTER II - “CHOOSE”

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 hesitating touches.

“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 him here?’

“‘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 has begun.’

“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 drink, also.

“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, 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 ­’ Then ­silence!”

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 sister speak!

“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 allude to.”

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?”

“Yes, yes.”

“And did not see her raise them once?”

“No, no.”

“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.”

“Yes, sir.”

“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 dead ­quite dead.”

“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 this time?”

“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 arranged?”

“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: 

“No.”

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.

CHAPTER III - “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.

Macbeth.

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 she stood.

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 importance.

“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 engagement ring?”

“Yes ­I not only saw it, but felt it.  It was the only one she wore on her left hand.”

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 hearth?”

“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 she rest.”

“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 enough kindling.”

“And the draught is good.”

“Yes, sir.”

“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?”

“After.”

“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?”

“No, sir.”

“But you do remember having shut the door behind you?”

“Yes.”

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?”

“Yes.”

“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 way ­she answered: 

“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?”

“Yes, sir.”

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 that time?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Or see a face?”

“Yes, sir.”

“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?”

“Immediately.”

“Entering the telephone room?”

“Yes.”

“The door of which you shut?”

“Yes.”

“Intentionally?”

“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.”

“For help?”

“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 words.”

“And then you left the building?”

“After going for my little bag.”

“Did you see any one then?”

“No, sir.”

“Hear any one?”

“No, sir.”

“Did you see your sister again?”

“I have said that I just glanced at the couch.”

“Were the pillows there?”

“Yes, sir.”

“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?”

“They might.”

“Miss Cumberland, when you left the building, did you leave it alone?”

“I did.”

“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?”

“Behind me.”

“When you threw the phial out?”

“Yes.”

“What was there behind you?”

“A dead sister.”  Oh, the indescribable tone!

“Nothing else?”

“No.”

“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?”

“Yes.”

“How do you know you threw it out?”

“I felt it slip from my hand.”

“Where?”

“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 my fingers.”

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 building?”

“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?”

“Yes.”

“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.”

“What, then?”

“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?”

“No, sir.”

“Took nothing out?”

“No, sir.”

“Then or when you unharnessed your horse, or afterward, as you passed back to the house?”

“No, sir.”

“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?”

“Oh, no.”

“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 to-day.”

Then he threw up his head and smiled a slow, sarcastic smile at Mr. Moffat.

CHAPTER IV - 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!

Othello.

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 humble request.

“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 conversation.

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 intrusion.

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 half-formed question.

“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 Whispering Pines.”

“Ah!”

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 club-house.”

“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?”

“Yes.”

“Who told him?”

“I did.”

“You?”

“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 cannot say.

“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 wise smiles: 

“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.

CHAPTER V - 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.

Prometheus Unbound.

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?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Any of their words, or only their voices?”

“I heard one word.”

“What word?”

“The word, ‘Elwood.’”

“In which voice?”

“In that of my sister Adelaide.”

“And you fled?”

“Immediately.”

“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?”

“Not then.”

“Had you expected Adelaide to accompany your younger sister when you harnessed the horse for her?”

“No, sir.”

“Had not this younger sister even enjoined secrecy upon you in asking you to harness the horse?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Yet you heard the two together in this remote building without surprise?”

“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 its history.

“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 arraigned brother.”

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 his voice: 

“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 reasonable doubt.”

All this and more did Mr. Moffat dilate upon.  But I could no longer fix my mind on details, and much of this portion of his address escaped me.

But I do remember the startling picture with which he closed.  His argument so far, had been based on the assumption of Arthur’s ignorance of Carmers purpose in visiting the club-house, or of Adelaide’s attempt at suicide.  His client had left the building when he said he did, and knew no more of what happened there afterward than circumstances showed, or his own imagination conceived.  But now the advocate took a sudden turn, and calmly asked the jury to consider with him the alternative outlined by the prosecution in the evidence set before them.

“My distinguished opponent,” said he, “would have you believe that the defendant did not fly at the moment declared, but that he waited to fulfil the foul deed which is the only serious matter in dispute in his so nearly destroyed case.  I hear as though he were now speaking, the attack which he will make upon my client when he comes to review this matter with you.  Let me see if I cannot make you hear those words, too.”  And with a daring smile at his discomforted adversary, Alonzo Moffat launched forth into the following sarcasm: 

“Arthur Cumberland, coming up the kitchen stairs, hears voices where he had expected total silence ­sees light where he had left total darkness.  He has two bottles in his hands, or in his large coat-pockets.  If they are in his hands, he sets them down and steals forward to listen.  He has recognised the voices.  They are those of his two sisters, one of whom had ordered him to hitch up the cutter for her to escape, as he had every reason to believe, the other.  Curiosity ­or is it some nobler feeling ­causes him to draw nearer and nearer to the room in which they have taken up their stand.  He can hear their words now and what are the words he hears?  Words that would thrill the most impervious heart, call for the interference of the most indifferent.  But he is made of ice, welded together with steel.  He sees ­for no place save one from which he can watch and see, viz.:  the dark dancing hall, would satisfy any man of such gigantic curiosity ­Adelaide fall at Carmel’s feet, in recognition of the great sacrifice she has made for her.  But he does not move; he falls at no one’s feet; he recognises no nobility, responds to no higher appeal.  Stony and unmoved, he crouches there, and watches and watches ­still curious, or still feeding his hate on the sufferings of the elder, the forbearance of the younger.

“And on what does he look?  You have already heard, but consider it.  Adelaide, despairing of happiness, decides on death for herself or sister.  Both loving one man, one of the two must give way to the other.  Carmel has done her part; she must now do hers.  She has brought poison; she has brought glasses ­three glasses, for three persons, but only two are on the scene, and so she fills but two.  One has only cordial in it, but the other is, as she believes, deadly.  Carmel is to have her choice; but who believes that Adelaide would ever have let her drink the poisoned glass?

“And this man looks on, as the two faces confront each other ­one white with the overthrow of every earthly hope, the other under the stress of suffering and a fascination of horror sufficient to have laid her dead, without poison, at the other one’s feet.  This is what he sees ­a brother! ­and he makes no move, then or afterwards, when, the die cast, Adelaide succumbs to her fear and falls into a seemingly dying state on the couch.

“Does he go now?  Is his hate or his cupidity satisfied?  No!  He remains and listens to the tender interchange of final words, and all the late precautions of the elder to guard the younger woman’s good name.  Still he is not softened; and when, the critical moment passed, Carmel rises and totters about the room in her endeavour to fulfil the tasks enjoined upon her by her sister, he gloats over a death which will give him independence and gluts himself with every evil thought which could blind him to the pitiful aspects of a tragedy such as few men in this world could see unmoved. A brother!

“But this is not the worst.  The awful cup of human greed and hatred is but filled to the brim; it has not yet overflowed.  Carmel leaves the room; she has a telephonic message to deliver.  She may be gone a minute; she may be gone many.  Little does he care which; he must see the dead, look down on the woman who has been like a mother to him, and see if her influence is forever removed, if his wealth is his, and his independence forever assured.

“Safe in the darkness of the gloomy recesses of the dancing hall, he steals slowly forward.  Drawn as by a magnet, he enters the room of seeming death, draws up to the pillow-laden couch, pulls off first one cushion, and then another, till face and hands are bare and ­

“Ah! ­there is a movement! death has not, then, done its work.  She lives ­the hated one ­lives!  And he is no longer rich, no longer independent.  With a clutch, he seizes her at the feeble seat of life; and as the breath ceases and her whole body becomes again inert, he stoops to pull off the ring, which can have no especial value or meaning for him ­and then, repiling the cushions over her, creeps forth again, takes up the bottles, and disappears from the house.

“Gentlemen of the jury, this is what my opponent would have you believe.  This will be his explanation of this extraordinary murder.  But when his eloquence meets your ears ­when you hear this arraignment, and the emphasis he will place upon the few points remaining to his broken case, then ask yourself if you see such a monster in the prisoner now confronting you from the bar.  I do not believe it.  I do not believe that such a monster lives.

“But you say, some one entered that room ­some one stilled the fluttering life still remaining in that feeble breast.  Some one may have, but that some one was not my client, and it is his guilt or innocence we are considering now, and it is his life and freedom for which you are responsible.  No brother did that deed; no witness of the scene which hallowed this tragedy ever lifted hand against the fainting Adelaide, or choked back a life which kindly fate had spared.

“Go further for the guilty perpetrator of this most inhuman act; he stands not in the dock.  Guilt shows no such relief as you see in him to-day.  Guilt would remember that his sister’s testimony, under the cross-examination of the people’s prosecutor, left the charge of murder still hanging over the defendant’s head.  But the brother has forgotten this.  His restored confidence in one who now represents to him father, mother, and sister has thrown his own fate into the background.  Will you dim that joy ­sustain this charge of murder?

“If in your sense of justice you do so, you forever place this degenerate son of a noble father, on the list of the most unimaginative and hate-driven criminals of all time.  Is he such a demon?  Is he such a madman?  Look in his face to-day, and decide.  I am willing to leave his cause in your hands.  It could be placed in no better.

“May it please your Honour, and gentlemen of the jury, I am done.”

If any one at that moment felt the arrow of death descending into his heart, it was not Arthur Cumberland.

CHAPTER VI - “STEADY!”

I am a tainted wether of the flock,
Meetest for death; the weakest kind of fruit
Drops earliest to the ground, and so let me. 
You cannot better be employ’d, Bassanio,
Than to live still, and write my epitaph.

Merchant of Venice.

Why linger over the result.  Arthur Cumberland’s case was won before Mr. Fox arose to his feet.  The usual routine was gone through.  The district attorney made the most of the three facts which he declared inconsistent with the prisoner’s innocence, just as Mr. Moffat said he would; but the life was gone from his work, and the result was necessarily unsatisfactory.

The judge’s charge was short, but studiously impartial.  When the jury filed out, I said to myself, “They will return in fifteen minutes.”  They returned in ten, with a verdict of acquittal.

The demonstrations of joy which followed filled my ears, and doubtless left their impression upon my other senses; but my mind took in nothing but the apparition of my own form taking his place at the bar, under circumstances less favourable to acquittal than those which had exonerated him.  It was a picture which set my brain whirling.  A phantom judge, a phantom jury, a phantom circle of faces, lacking the consideration and confidence of those I saw before me; but not a phantom prisoner, or any mere dream of outrageous shame and suffering.

That shame and that suffering had already seized hold of me.  With the relief of young Arthur’s acquittal my faculties had cleared to the desperate position in which this very acquittal had placed me.

I saw, as never before, how the testimony which had reinstated Carmel in my heart and won for her and through her the sympathies of the whole people, had overthrown every specious reason which I and those interested in me had been able to advance in contradiction of the natural conclusion to be drawn from the damning fact of my having been seen with my fingers on Adelaide’s throat.

Mr. Moffat’s words rang in my ears:  “Some one entered that room; some one stilled the fluttering life still remaining in that feeble breast; but that some one was not her brother.  You must look further for the guilty perpetrator of this most inhuman act; some one who had not been a witness to the scene preceding this tragedy, some one ­” he had not said this but every mind had supplied the omission, ­“some one who had come in later, who came in after Carmel had gone, some one who knew nothing of the telephone message which was even then hastening the police to the spot; some one who had every reason for lifting those cushions and, on meeting life ­”

The horror stifled me; I was reeling in my place on the edge of the crowd, when I heard a quiet voice in my ear: 

“Steady!  Their eyes will soon be off of Arthur, and then they will look at you.”

It was Clifton, and his word came none too soon.  I stiffened under its quiet force, and, taking his arm, let him lead me out of a side door, where the crowd was smaller and its attention even more absorbed.

I soon saw its cause ­Carmel was entering the doorway from the street.  She had come to greet her brother; and her face, quite unveiled, was beaming with beauty and joy.  In an instant I forgot myself, forgot everything but her and the effect she produced upon those about her.  No noisy demonstration here; admiration and love were shown in looks and the low-breathed prayer for her welfare which escaped from more than one pair of lips.  She smiled and their hearts were hers; she essayed to move forward and the people crowded back as if at a queen’s passage; but there was no noise.

When she reappeared, it was on Arthur’s arm.  I had not been able to move from the place in which we were hemmed; nor had I wished to.  I was hungry for a glance of her eye.  Would it turn my way, and, if it did, would it leave a curse or a blessing behind it?  In anxiety for the blessing, I was willing to risk the curse; and I followed her every step with hungry glances, until she reached the doorway and turned to give another shake of the hand to Mr. Moffat, who had followed them.  But she did not see me.

“I cannot miss it!  I must catch her eye!” I whispered to Clifton.  “Get me out of this; it will be several minutes before they can reach the sleigh.  Let me see her, for one instant, face to face.”

Clifton disapproved, and made me aware of it; but he did my bidding, nevertheless.  In a few moments we were on the sidewalk, and quite by ourselves; so that, if she turned again she could not fail to observe me.  I had small hope, however, that she would so turn.  She and Arthur were within a few feet of the curb and their own sleigh.

I had just time to see this sleigh, and note the rejoicing face of Zadok leaning sideways from the box, when I beheld her pause and slowly turn her head around and peer eagerly ­and with what divine anxiety in her eyes ­back over the heads of those thronging about her, until her gaze rested fully and sweetly on mine.  My heart leaped, then sank down, down into unutterable depths; for in that instant her face changed, horror seized upon her beauty, and shook her frantic hold on Arthur’s arm.

I heard words uttered very near me, but I did not catch them.  I did feel, however, the hand which was laid strongly and with authority upon my shoulder; and, tearing my eyes from her face only long enough to perceive that it was Sweetwater who had thus arrested me, I looked back at her, in time to see the questions leap from her lips to Arthur, whose answers I could well understand from the pitying movement in the crowd and the low hum of restrained voices which ran between her sinking figure and the spot where I stood apart, with the detective’s hand on my shoulder.

She had never been told of the incriminating position in which I had been seen in the club-house.  It had been carefully kept from her, and she had supposed that my acquittal in the public mind was as certain as Arthur’s.  Now she saw herself undeceived, and the reaction into doubt and misery was too much for her, and I saw her sinking under my eyes.

“Let me go to her!” I shrieked, utterly unconcerned with anything in the world but this tottering, fainting girl.

But Sweetwater’s hand only tightened on my shoulder, while Arthur, with an awful look at me, caught his sister in his arms, just as she fell to the ground before the swaying multitude.

But he was not the only one to kneel there.  With a sound of love and misery impossible to describe, Zadok had leaped from the box and had grovelled at those dear feet, kissing the insensible hands and praying for those shut eyes to open.  Even after Arthur had lifted her into the sleigh, the man remained crouching where she had fallen, with his eyes roaming back and forth in a sightless stare from her to myself, muttering and groaning, and totally unheedful of Arthur’s commands to mount the box and drive home.  Finally some one else stepped from the crowd and mercifully took the reins.  I caught one more glimpse of her face, with Arthur’s bent tenderly over it; then the sleigh slipped away.

An officer shook Zadok by the arm and he got up and began to move aside.  Then I had mind to face my own fate, and, looking up, I met Sweetwater’s eye.

It was quietly apologetic.

“I only wished to congratulate you,” said he, “on the conclusion of a case in which I know you are highly interested.”  Lifting his hat, he nodded affably and was gone before I could recover from my stupor.

It was for Clifton to show his indignation.  I was past all feeling.  Farce as an after-piece never appealed to me.

Would I have considered it farce if I could have heard the words which this detective was at that moment whispering into the district attorney’s ears: 

“Do you want to know who throttled Adelaide Cumberland?  It was not her brother; it was not her lover; it was her old and trusted coachman.”

CHAPTER VII - “AS IF IT WERE A MECCA”

­I have within my mind
A thousand raw tricks of these bragging Jacks
Which I will practise.

Merchant of Venice.

“Give me your reasons.  They must be excellent ones, Sweetwater, or you would not risk making a second mistake in a case of this magnitude and publicity.”

“Mr. Fox, they are excellent.  But you shall judge of them.  From the moment Miss Carmel Cumberland overthrew the very foundations of our case by her remarkable testimony, I have felt that my work was only half done.  It was a strain on credulity to believe Arthur guilty of a crime so prefaced, and the alternative which Mr. Moffat believed in, which you were beginning to believe in, and perhaps are allowing yourself to believe in even now, never appealed to me.

“I allude to the very natural suspicion that the act beheld by your man Clarke was a criminal act, and that Ranelagh is the man really responsible for Miss Cumberland’s death.  Some instinct held me back from this conclusion, as well as the incontrovertible fact that he could have had no hand in carrying that piece of broken bottle into the Cumberland stable, or of dropping his engagement ring in the suggestive place where it was found.  Where, then, should I look for the unknown, the unsuspected third party?  Among the ten other persons who dropped something into that casket.

“Most of these were children, but I made the acquaintance of every one.  I spent most of my Sunday that way; then, finding no clouded eye among them, I began a study of the Cumberland servants, naturally starting with Zadok.  For two hours I sat at his stable fire, talking and turning him inside out, as only we detectives know how.  I found him actually overwhelmed with grief; not the grief of a sane man, but of one in whom the very springs of life are poisoned by some dreadful remorse.

“He did not know he revealed this; he expressed himself as full of hope that his young master would be acquitted the next day; but I could see that this prospect could never still the worm working at his heart, and resolved to understand why.  I left him ostensibly alone, but in reality shadowed him.  The consequence was that, in the evening dusk, he led me to the cemetery, where he took up his watch at Miss Cumberland’s grave, as if it were a Mecca and he a passionate devotee.  I could hear his groans as he hung to the fence and spoke softly to the dead; and though I was too far away to catch a single word, I felt confident that I had at last struck the right track, and should soon see my way more clearly than at any time since this baffling case opened.

“But before I allowed my fancy to run away with me, I put in an evening of inquiry.  If this man had an absolute alibi, what was the use of wasting effort upon him.  But I could not find that he had, Mr. Fox.  He went with the rest of the servants to the ball ­which, you know, was held in Tibbitt’s Hall, on Ford Street and he was seen there later, dancing and making merry in a way not usual to him.  But there was a space of time dangerously tallying with that of the tragic scene at the club-house, when he was not seen by any one there, so far as I can make out; and this fact gave me courage to consider a certain point which had struck me, and of which I thought something might be made.

“Mr. Fox, after the fiasco I have made of this affair, it costs me something to go into petty details which must suggest my former failures and may not strike you with the force they did me.  That broken bottle ­ or rather, that piece of broken bottle!  Where was the rest of it?  Sought for almost immediately after the tragedy, it had not been found at the Cumberland place or on the golf-links.  It had been looked for carefully when the first thaw came; but, though glass was picked up, it was not the same glass.  The task had become hopeless and ere long was abandoned.

“But with this idea of Zadok being the means of its transfer from The Whispering Pines to the house on the Hill, I felt the desire to look once more, and while court was in session this morning, I started a fresh search ­this time not on the golf-links.  Tibbitt’s Hall communicates more quickly with The Whispering Pines by the club-house road than by the market one.  So I directed my attention to the ground in front, and on the further side of the driveways. And I found the neck of that bottle!

“Yes, sir, I will show it to you later.  I picked it up at some distance from the northern driveway, under a small tree, against the trunk of which it had evidently been struck off.  This meant that the lower part had been carried away, broken.

“Now, who would do this but Zadok, who saw in it, he has said, a receptacle for some varnish which he had; and if Zadok, how had he carried it, if not in some pocket of his greatcoat.  But glass edges make quick work with pockets; and if this piece of bottle had gone from The Whispering Pines to Tibbitt’s Hall, and from there to the Hill, there should be some token of its work in Zadok’s overcoat pocket.

“This led me to look for those tokens; and as I had by this time insinuated my way into his confidence by a free and cheerful manner which gave him a rest from his gloomy thoughts, I soon had a chance to see for myself the condition of those pockets.  The result was quite satisfactory.  In one of them I found a frayed lining, easily explainable on the theory I had advanced.  That pocket can be seen by you.

“But Mr. Fox, I wanted some real proof.  I wasn’t willing to embarrass another man, or to risk my own reputation on a hazard so blind as this, without something really definite.  A confession was what I wanted, or such a breakdown of the man as would warrant police action.  How could I get this?

“I am a pupil of Mr. Gryce, and I remembered some of his methods.

“This man, guilty though he might be, loved this family, and was broken-hearted over the trouble in which he saw it plunged.  Excused to-day from attendance at court, he was in constant telephonic communication with some friend of his, who kept him posted as to the conduct of the trial and the probabilities of a favourable verdict.

“If the case had gone against Arthur, we should have heard from his coachman ­that I verily believe, but when we all saw that he was likely to be acquitted, I realised that some other course must be taken to shake Zadok from his new won complacency, and I chose the most obvious one.

“Just when everything looked most favourable to their restored peace and happiness, I shocked Miss Carmel and, through her, this Zadok, into the belief that the whole agony was to be gone over again, in the rearrest and consequent trial of the man she still loves, in spite of all that has happened to separate them.

“He was not proof against this new responsibility.  As she fainted, he leaped from the box; and, could I have heard the words he muttered in her ear, I am sure that I should have that to give you which would settle this matter for all time.  As it is, I can only say that my own convictions are absolute; the rest remains with you.”

“We will go see the man,” said District Attorney Fox.

CHAPTER VIII - THE SURCHARGED MOMENT

For Justice, when triumphant, will weep down
Pity, not punishment, on her own wrongs,
Too much avenged by those who err.  I wait,
Enduring thus, the retributive hour
Which since we spake is even nearer now.

Prometheus Unbound.

The moment I felt Sweetwater’s hand lifted from my shoulder I sprang into the first hack I could find, and bade the driver follow the Cumberland sleigh post-haste.  I was determined to see Carmel and have Carmel see me.  Whatever cold judgment might say against the meeting, I could not live in my present anxiety.  If the thunderbolt which had struck her had spared her life and reason she must know from my own lips that I was not only a free man, but as innocent of the awful charge conveyed in Sweetwater’s action as was the brother, who had just been acquitted of it by the verdict of his peers.

I must declare this, and she must believe me.  Nothing else mattered ­nothing else in all the world.  That Arthur might stop me, that anything could stop me, did not disturb my mind for a minute.  All that I dreaded was that I might find myself too late; that this second blow might have proved to be too much for her, and that I should find my darling dead or passed from me into that living death which were the harder punishment of the two.  But I was spared this killing grief.  When our two conveyances stopped, it was in the driveway of her old home; and as I bounded upon the walk, it was to see her again in Arthur’s arms, but this time with open eyes and horror-drawn features.

“Carmel!” rushed in a cry from my lips.  “Don’t believe what they say.  I cannot bear it ­I cannot bear it!”

She roused; she looked my way, and struggling to her feet, held back Arthur with one hand while she searched my face ­and possibly searched her own soul ­for answer to my plea.  Never was moment more surcharged.  Further word I could not speak; I could only meet her eyes with the steady, demanding look of a despairing heart, while Arthur moved in every fibre of his awakened manhood, waited ­thinking, perhaps, how few minutes had passed since he hung upon the words of a fellow being for his condemnation to death, or release to the freedom which he now enjoyed.

A moment!  But what an eternity before I saw the rigid lines of her white, set face relax ­before I marked the play of human, if not womanly, emotion break up the misery of her look and soften her youthful lips into some semblance of their old expression.  Love might be dead ­friendship, even, be a thing of the far past ­but consideration was still alive and in another instant it spoke in these trembling sentences, uttered across a threshold made sacred by a tragedy involving our three lives: 

“Come in and explain yourself.  No man should go unheard.  I know you will not come where Adelaide’s spirit yet lingers, if you cannot bring hands clean from all actual violence.”

I motioned my driver away, and as Carmel drew back out of sight, I caught at Arthur’s arm and faced him with the query: 

“Are you willing that I should enter?  I only wish to declare to her, and to you, an innocence I have no means of proving, but which you cannot disbelieve if I swear it, here and now, by your sister Carmel’s sacred disfigurement.  Such depravity could not exist, as such a vow from the lips guilty of the crime you charge me with.  Look at me, Arthur.  I considered you ­now consider me.”

Quickly he stepped back.  “Enter,” said he.

It was some minutes later ­I cannot say how many ­that one of the servants disturbed us by asking if we knew anything about Zadok.

“He has not come home,” said he, “and here is a man who wants him.”

“What man?” asked Arthur.

“Oh, that detective chap.  He never will leave us alone.”

I arose.  In an instant enlightenment had come to me.  “It’s nothing,” said I with my eyes on Carmel; but the gesture I furtively made Arthur, said otherwise.

A few minutes later we were both in the driveway.  “We are on the brink of a surprise,” I whispered.  “I think I understand this Sweetwater now.”

Arthur looked bewildered, but he took the lead in the interview which followed with the man who had made him so much trouble and was now doing his best to make us all amends.

Zadok could not be found; he was wanted by the district attorney, who wished to put some questions to him.  Were there any objections to his searching the stable-loft for indications of his whereabouts?

Arthur made none; and the detective, after sending the Cumberlands’ second man before him to light up the stable, disappeared beneath the great door, whither we more slowly followed him.

“Not here!” came in a shout from above, as we stepped in from the night air; and in a few minutes the detective came running down the stairs, baffled and very ill at ease.  Suddenly he encountered my eye.  “Oh ­I know!” he cried, and started for the gate.

“I am going to follow him,” I confided to Arthur.  “Look for me again to-night; or, at least, expect a message.  If fortune favours us, as I now expect, we two shall sleep to-night as we have not slept for months.”  And waiting for no answer, not even to see if he comprehended my meaning, I made a run for the gate, and soon came up with Sweetwater.

“To the cemetery?” I asked.

“Yes, to the cemetery.”

And there we found him, in the same place where we had seen him before, but not in the same position.  He was sunken now to the ground; but his face was pressed against the rails, and in his stiff, cold hand was clutched a letter which afterwards we read.

Let it be read by you here.  It will explain the mystery which came near destroying the lives of more than Adelaide.

No more unhappy wretch than I goes to his account.  I killed her who had shown me only goodness, and will be the death of others if I do not confess my dreadful, my unsuspected secret.  This is how it happened.  I cannot give reasons; I cannot even ask for pardon.

That night, just as I was preparing to leave the stable to join the other servants on their ride to Tibbitt’s Hall, the telephone rang and I heard Miss Cumberland’s voice.  “Zadok,” she said ­and at first I could hardly understand her, ­“I am in trouble; I want help, and you are the only one who can aid me.  Answer; do you hear me and are you quite alone in the stable?” I told her yes, and that I was listening to all she said.  I suspected her trouble, and was ready to stand by her, if a man like me could do anything.

I had been with her many years, and I loved her as well as I could love anybody; though you won’t think it when I tell you my whole story.  What she wanted was this:  I was to go to the ball just as if nothing had happened, but I was not to stay there.  As soon as I could, I was to slip out, get a carriage from some near-by stable, and hurry back up the road to meet her and take her where she would tell me; or, if I did not meet her, to wait two houses below hers, till she came along.  She would not want me long, and very soon I could go back and have as good a time as I pleased.  But she would like me to be secret, for her errand was not one for gossip, even among her own servants.

It was the first time she had ever asked me to do anything for her which any one else might not have done, and I was proud of her confidence, and happy to do just what she asked.  I even tried to do better, and be even more secret about it than she expected.  Instead of going to a stable, I took one of the rigs which I found fastened up in the big shed alongside the hall; and being so fortunate as not to attract anybody’s attention by this business, I was out on the road and half way to The Whispering Pines, before Helen and Maggie could wonder why I had not asked them to dance.

A few minutes later I was on the Hill, for the horse I had chosen was a fast one; and I was just turning into our street when I was passed by Mr. Arthur’s grey mare and cutter.  This made me pull up for a minute, for I hadn’t expected this; but on looking ahead and seeing Miss Cumberland peering from our own gateway, I drove quickly on and took her up.

I was not so much astonished as you would think, to be ordered to follow fast after the mare and cutter, and to stop where it stopped.  That was all she wanted ­to follow that cutter, and to stop where it stopped.  Well, it stopped at the club-house; and when she saw it turn in there, I heard her give a little gasp.

“Wait,” she whispered.  “Wait till she has had time to get out and go in; then drive in, too, and help me to find my way into the building after her.”

And then I knew it was Miss Carmel we had been following.  Before, I thought it was Mr. Arthur.

Presently, she pulled me by the sleeve.  “I heard the door shut,” said she ­and I was a little frightened at her voice, but I was full of my importance, and went on doing just as she bade me.  Driving in after the cutter, I drew up into the shadows where the grey mare was hid, and then, reaching out my hand to Miss Cumberland, I helped her out, and went with her as far as the door.  “You may go back now,” said she.  “If I survive the night, I shall never forget this service, my good Zadok.”  And I saw her lift her hand to the door, then fall back white and trembling in the moonlight.  “I can’t,” she whispered, over and over; “I can’t ­I can’t.”

“Shall I knock?” I asked.

“No, no,” she whispered back.  “I want to go in quietly; let’s see if there’s no other way.  Run about the house, Zadok; I will submit to any humiliation; only find me some entrance other than this.”  She was shaking so and her face looked so ghastly in the moonlight that I was afraid to leave her; but she made me a gesture of such command that I ran quickly down the steps, and so round the house till I came to a shed over the top of which I saw a window partly open.

Could I get her up on to the shed?  I thought I could, and went hurrying back to the big entrance where I had left her.  She was still there, shivering with the cold, but just as determined as ever.  “Come,” I whispered; “I have found a way.”

She gave me her hand and I led her around to the shed.  She was like a snow woman and her touch was ice itself.  “Wait till I get a box or board or something,” I said.  Hunting about, I found a box leaning against the kitchen side, and, bringing it, I helped her up and soon had her on a level with the window.

As she made her way in, she turned and whispered to me:  “Go back now.  Carmel has a horse, and will see me home.  You have served me well, Zadok.”

I nodded, and she vanished into the darkness.  Then I should have gone; but my curiosity was too great.  I wanted to know just a little more.  Two women in this desolate and bitterly cold club-house!  What did it mean?

I could not restrain myself from following her in and listening, for a few minutes, to what they had to say.  But I did not catch much of it; and when I heard other sounds from some place below, and recognised these sounds as a man’s heavy footsteps coming up the rear stairs, I got a fright at being where I should not be, and slipped into the first door I found, expecting this man to come out and join the ladies.

But he did not; he just lingered for a moment in the hall I had left, then I heard him clamber out of the window and go.  I now know that this was Mr. Arthur.  But I did not know it then, and I was frightened for the horse I had run off with, and so got out of the building as quickly as I could.

And all might yet have been well if I had not found, lying on the snow at the foot of the shed, a bottle of whiskey such as I had never drunk and did not know how to resist.  Catching it up, I ran about the house to where I had left my rig.  It was safe, and in my relief at finding it, I knocked off the head of the bottle and took a long drink.

Then I drank again; then I sat down in the snow and drank again.  In short, I nearly finished it; then I became confused; I looked at the piece of broken bottle in my hand, took a fancy to its shape, and breaking off a bit more, thrust it into one of my big pockets.  Then I staggered up to the horse; but I did not untie him.

Curiosity seized me again, and I thought I would take another look at the ladies ­perhaps they might want me ­perhaps ­I was pretty well confused, but I went back and crawled once more into the window.

This time the place was silent ­not a sound, not a breath, ­but I could see a faint glimmer of light.  I followed this glimmer.  Still there was no sound.

I came to an open door.  A couch was before me, heaped with cushions.  A long ray of moonlight had shot in through a communicating door, and I could see everything by it.  This was where the ladies had been when I listened before, but they were not here now.

Weren’t they?  Why did I tremble so, then, and stare and stare at those cushions?  Why did I feel I must pull them away, as I presently did?  I was mad with liquor and might easily have imagined what I there saw; but I did not think of this then.  I believed what I saw instantly.  Miss Cumberland was dead, and I had discovered the crime.  She had killed herself ­no, she had been killed!

Should I yell out murder?  No, no; I could be sorry without that.  I would not yell ­mistresses were plenty.  I had liked her, but I need not yell.  There was something else I could do.

She had a ring on her finger ­a ring that for months I had gloated over and watched, as I had never watched and gloated over any other beautiful thing in my life.  I wanted it ­I had always wanted it.  It was before me, for the taking now ­I should be a fool to leave it there for some other wretch to pilfer.  I had loved her ­I would love the ring.

Reaching down, I took it.  I drew it from her finger; I put it in my pocket; I ­God in heaven!  The eyes I had seen glassed in death were looking at me.

She was not dead ­she had been witness of the theft.  Without a thought of what I was doing, my hands closed round her throat.  It was drink ­fright ­terror at the look she gave me ­which made me kill her; not my real self.  My real self could have shrieked when, in another instant, I saw my work.

But shrieking would not bring her back and it would quite ruin me.  Miss Carmel was somewhere near.  I heard her now at the telephone; in another minute she would come out and meet me.  I dared not linger.

Tossing back the pillows, I stumbled from the place.  Why I was not heard by my young mistress, I do not know; her ears were deaf, just as my eyes were half-blind.  In a half hour I was dancing with the maids, telling them of the pretty stranger with whom I had been sitting out an hour of fun in a quiet corner.  They believed me, and not a particle of suspicion has any man ever had of me since.

But others have had to suffer, and that has made hell of my nights.  I restored the ring to my poor mistress; but even that brought harm to one I had no quarrel with.  But he has escaped conviction; and if I thought Mr. Ranelagh would also escape, I might have courage to live out my miserable life, and seek to make amends in the way she would have me.

But I fear for him; I fear for Miss Carmel.  Never could I testify in another trial which threatened her peace of mind.  I see that, instead of being the selfish stealer of her sister’s happiness, as I had thought, she is an angel from whom all future suffering should be kept.

This is my way of sparing her.  Perhaps it will help her sister to forgive me when we meet in the world to which I am now going.