Hand and Ring, by Anna Katharine Green

28. The Chief Witness for the Prosecution.

Oh, while you live tell truth and shame the devil!

Henry iv.

MR. BYRD’S countenance after the departure of his companion was any thing but cheerful. The fact is, he was secretly uneasy. He dreaded the morrow. He dreaded the testimony of Miss Dare. He had not yet escaped so fully from under the dominion of her fascinations as to regard with equanimity this unhappy woman forcing herself to give testimony compromising to the man she loved.

Yet when the morrow came he was among the first to secure a seat in the court-room. Though the scene was likely to be harrowing to his feelings, he had no wish to lose it, and, indeed, chose such a position as would give him the best opportunity for observing the prisoner and surveying the witnesses.

He was not the only one on the look-out for the testimony of Miss Dare. The increased number of the spectators and the general air of expectation visible in more than one of the chief actors in this terrible drama gave suspicious proof of the fact; even if the deadly pallor of the lady herself had not revealed her own feelings in regard to the subject.

The entrance of the prisoner was more marked, too, than usual. His air and manner were emphasized, so to speak, and his face, when he turned it toward the jury, wore an iron look of resolution that would have made him conspicuous had he occupied a less prominent position than that of the dock.

Miss Dare, who had flashed her eyes toward him at the moment of his first appearance, dropped them again, contrary to her usual custom. Was it because she knew the moment was at hand when their glances would be obliged to meet?

Mr. Orcutt, whom no movement on the part of Miss Dare ever escaped, leaned over and spoke to the prisoner.

“Mr. Mansell,” said he, “are you prepared to submit with composure to the ordeal of confronting Miss Dare?”

“Yes,” was the stern reply.

“I would then advise you to look at her now,” proceeded his counsel. “She is not turned this way, and you can observe her without encountering her glance. A quick look at this moment may save you from betraying any undue emotion when you see her upon the stand.”

The accused smiled with a bitterness Mr. Orcutt thought perfectly natural, and slowly prepared to obey. As he raised his eyes and allowed them to traverse the room until they settled upon the countenance of the woman he loved, this other man who, out of a still more absorbing passion for Imogene, was at that very moment doing all that lay in his power for the saving of this his openly acknowledged rival, watched him with the closest and most breathless attention. It was another instance of that peculiar fascination which a successful rival has for an unsuccessful one. It was as if this great lawyer’s thoughts reverted to his love, and he asked himself: “What is there in this Mansell that she should prefer him to me?”

And Orcutt himself, though happily unaware of the fact, was at that same instant under a scrutiny as narrow as that he bestowed upon his client. Mr. Ferris, who knew his secret, felt a keen interest in watching how he would conduct himself at this juncture. Not an expression of the lawyer’s keen and puzzling eye but was seen by the District Attorney and noted, even if it was not understood.

Of the three, Mr. Ferris was the first to turn away, and his thoughts if they could have been put into words might have run something like this: “That man”— meaning Orcutt —“is doing the noblest work one human being can perform for another, and yet there is something in his face I do not comprehend. Can it be he hopes to win Miss Dare by his effort to save his rival?”

As for the thoughts of the person thus unconsciously subjected to the criticism of his dearest friend, let our knowledge of the springs that govern his action serve to interpret both the depth and bitterness of his curiosity; while the sentiments of Mansell —— But who can read what lurks behind the iron of that sternly composed countenance? Not Imogene, not Orcutt, not Ferris. His secret, if he owns one, he keeps well, and his lids scarcely quiver as he drops them over the eyes that but a moment before reflected the grand beauty of the unfortunate woman for whom he so lately protested the most fervent love.

The next moment the court was opened and Miss Dare’s name was called by the District Attorney.

With a last look at the unresponsive prisoner, Imogene rose, took her place on the witness stand and faced the jury.

It was a memorable moment. If the curious and impressible crowd of spectators about her had been ignorant of her true relations to the accused, the deadly stillness and immobility of her bearing would have convinced them that emotion of the deepest nature lay behind the still, white mask she had thought fit to assume. That she was beautiful and confronted them from that common stand as from a throne, did not serve to lessen the impression she made.

The officer held the Bible toward her. With a look that Mr. Byrd was fain to consider one of natural shrinking only, she laid her white hand upon it; but at the intimation from the officer, “The right hand, if you please, miss,” she started and made the exchange he suggested, while at the same moment there rang upon her ear the voice of the clerk as he administered the awful adjuration that she should, as she believed and hoped in Eternal mercy, tell the truth as between this man and the law and keep not one tittle back. The book was then lifted to her lips by the officer, and withdrawn.

“Take your seat, Miss Dare,” said the District Attorney. And the examination began.

“Your name, if you please?”

“Imogene Dare.”

“Are you married or single?”

“I am single.”

“Where were you born?”

Now this was a painful question to one of her history. Indeed, she showed it to be so by the flush which rose to her cheek and by the decided trembling of her proud lip. But she did not seek to evade it.

“Sir,” she said, “I cannot answer you. I never heard any of the particulars of my birth. I was a foundling.”

The mingled gentleness and dignity with which she made this acknowledgment won for her the instantaneous sympathy of all present. Mr. Orcutt saw this, and the flash of indignation that had involuntarily passed between him and the prisoner subsided as quickly as it arose.

Mr. Ferris went on.

“Where do you live?”

“In this town?”

“With whom do you live?”

“I am boarding at present with a woman of the name of Kennedy. I support myself by my needle,” she hurriedly added, as though anxious to forestall his next question.

Seeing the prisoner start at this, Imogene lifted her head still higher. Evidently this former lover of hers knew little of her movements since they parted so many weeks ago.

“And how long is it since you supported yourself in this way?” asked the District Attorney.

“For a few weeks only. Formerly,” she said, making a slight inclination in the direction of the prisoner’s counsel, “I lived in the household of Mr. Orcutt, where I occupied the position of assistant to the lady who looks after his domestic affairs.” And her eye met the lawyer’s with a look of pride that made him inwardly cringe, though not even the jealous glance of the prisoner could detect that an eyelash quivered or a flicker disturbed the studied serenity of his gaze.

The District Attorney opened his lips as if to pursue this topic, but, meeting his opponent’s eye, concluded to waive further preliminaries and proceed at once to the more serious part of the examination.

“Miss Dare,” said he, “will you look at the prisoner and tell us if you have any acquaintance with him?”

Slowly she prepared to reply; slowly she turned her head and let her glance traverse that vast crowd till it settled upon her former lover. The look which passed like lightning across her face as she encountered his gaze fixed for the first time steadily upon her own, no one in that assemblage ever forgot.

“Yes,” she returned, quietly, but in a tone that made Mansell quiver and look away, despite his iron self-command; “I know him.”

“Will you be kind enough to say how long you have known him and where it was you first made his acquaintance?”

“I met him first in Buffalo some four months since,” was the steady reply. “He was calling at a friend’s house where I was staying.”

“Did you at that time know of his relation to your townswoman, Mrs. Clemmens?”

“No, sir. It was not till I had seen him several times that I learned he had any connections in Sibley.”

“Miss Dare, you will excuse me, but it is highly desirable for the court to know if the prisoner ever paid his addresses to you?”

The deep, almost agonizing blush that colored her white cheek answered as truly as the slow “Yes,” that struggled painfully to her lips.

“And — excuse me again, Miss Dare — did he propose marriage to you?”

“He did.”

“Did you accept him?”

“I did not.”

“Did you refuse him?”

“I refused to engage myself to him.”

“Miss Dare, will you tell us when you left Buffalo?”

“On the nineteenth day of August last.”

“Did the prisoner accompany you?”

“He did not.”

“Upon what sort of terms did you part?”

“Good terms, sir.”

“Do you mean friendly terms, or such as are held by a man and a woman between whom an attachment exists which, under favorable circumstances, may culminate in marriage?”

“The latter, sir, I think.”

“Did you receive any letters from the prisoner after your return to Sibley?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And did you answer them?”

“I did.”

“Miss Dare, may I now ask what reasons you gave the prisoner for declining his offer — that is, if my friend does not object to the question?” added the District Attorney, turning with courtesy toward Mr. Orcutt.

The latter, who had started to his feet, bowed composedly and prepared to resume his seat.

“I desire to put nothing in the way of your eliciting the whole truth concerning this matter,” was his quiet, if somewhat constrained, response.

Mr. Ferris at once turned back to Miss Dare.

“You will, then, answer,” he said.

Imogene lifted her head and complied.

“I told him,” she declared, with thrilling distinctness, “that he was in no condition to marry. I am by nature an ambitious woman, and, not having suffered at that time, thought more of my position before the world than of what constitutes the worth and dignity of a man.”

No one who heard these words could doubt they were addressed to the prisoner. Haughtily as she held herself, there was a deprecatory humility in her tone that neither judge nor jury could have elicited from her. Naturally many eyes turned in the direction of the prisoner. They saw two white faces before them, that of the accused and that of his counsel, who sat near him. But the pallor of the one was of scorn, and that of the other —— Well, no one who knew the relations of Mr. Orcutt to the witness could wonder that the renowned lawyer shrank from hearing the woman he loved confess her partiality for another man.

Mr. Ferris, who understood the situation as well as any one, but who had passed the point where sympathy could interfere with his action, showed a disposition to press his advantage.

“Miss Dare,” he inquired, “in declining the proposals of the prisoner, did you state to him in so many words these objections you have here mentioned?”

“I did.”

“And what answer did he give you?”

“He replied that he was also ambitious, and hoped and intended to make a success in life.”

“And did he tell you how he hoped and intended to make a success?”

“He did.”

“Miss Dare, were these letters written by you?”

She looked at the packet he held toward her, started as she saw the broad black ribbon that encircled it, and bowed her head.

“I have no doubt these are my letters,” she rejoined, a little tremulously for her. And unbinding the packet, she examined its contents. “Yes,” she answered, “they are. These letters were all written by me.”

And she handed them back with such haste that the ribbon which bound them remained in her fingers, where consciously or unconsciously she held it clutched all through the remaining time of her examination.

“Now,” said the District Attorney, “I propose to read two of these letters. Does my friend wish to look at them before I offer them in evidence?” holding them out to Mr. Orcutt.

Every eye in the court-room was fixed upon the latter’s face, as the letters addressed to his rival by the woman he wished to make his wife, were tendered in this public manner to his inspection. Even the iron face of Mansell relaxed into an expression of commiseration as he turned and surveyed the man who, in despite of the anomalous position they held toward each other, was thus engaged in battling for his life before the eyes of the whole world. At that instant there was not a spectator who did not feel that Tremont Orcutt was the hero of the moment.

He slowly turned to the prisoner:

“Have you any objection to these letters being read?”

“No,” returned the other, in a low tone.

Mr. Orcutt turned firmly to the District Attorney:

“You may read them if you think proper,” said he.

Mr. Ferris bowed; the letters were marked as exhibits by the stenographic reporter who was taking the minutes of testimony, and handed back to Ferris, who proceeded to read the following in a clear voice to the jury:

“SIBLEY, N. Y., September 7, 1882.

“DEAR FRIEND— You show signs of impatience, and ask for a word to help you through this period of uncertainty and unrest. What can I say more than I have said? That I believe in you and in your invention, and proudly wait for the hour when you will come to claim me with the fruit of your labors in your hand. I am impatient myself, but I have more trust than you. Some one will see the value of your work before long, or else your aunt will interest herself in your success, and lend you that practical assistance which you need to start you in the way of fortune and fame. I cannot think you are going to fail. I will not allow myself to look forward to any thing less than success for you and happiness for myself. For the one involves the other, as you must know by this time, or else believe me to be the most heartless of coquettes.

“Wishing to see you, but of the opinion that further meetings between us would be unwise till our future looks more settled, I remain, hopefully yours,

“IMOGENE DARE.”

“The other letter I propose to read,” continued Mr. Ferris, “is dated September 23d, three days before the widow’s death.

“DEAR CRAIK— Since you insist upon seeing me, and say that you have reasons of your own for not visiting me openly, I will consent to meet you at the trysting spot you mention, though all such underhand dealings are as foreign to my nature as I believe them to be to yours.

“Trusting that fortune will so favor us as to make it unnecessary for us to meet in this way more than once, I wait in anxiety for your coming.

“IMOGENE DARE.”

These letters, unfolding relations that, up to this time, had been barely surmised by the persons congregated before her, created a great impression. To those especially who knew her and believed her to be engaged to Mr. Orcutt the surprise was wellnigh thrilling. The witness seemed to feel this, and bestowed a short, quick glance upon the lawyer, that may have partially recompensed him for the unpleasantness of the general curiosity.

The Prosecuting Attorney went on without pause:

“Miss Dare,” said he, “did you meet the prisoner as you promised?”

“I did.”

“Will you tell me when and where?”

“On the afternoon of Monday, September 27th, in the glade back of Mrs. Clemmens’ house.”

“Miss Dare, we fully realize the pain it must cost you to refer to these matters, but I must request you to tell us what passed between you at this interview?”

“If you will ask me questions, sir, I will answer them with the truth the subject demands.”

The sorrowful dignity with which this was said, called forth a bow from the Prosecuting Attorney.

“Very well,” he rejoined, “did the prisoner have any thing to say about his prospects?”

“He did.”

“How did he speak of them?”

“Despondingly.”

“And what reason did he give for this?”

“He said he had failed to interest any capitalist in his invention.”

“Any other reason?”

“Yes.”

“What was that?”

“That he had just come from his aunt whom he had tried to persuade to advance him a sum of money to carry out his wishes, but that she had refused.”

“He told you that?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Did he also tell you what path he had taken to his aunt’s house?”

“No, sir.”

“Was there any thing said by him to show he did not take the secret path through the woods and across the bog to her back door?”

“No, sir.”

“Or that he did not return in the same way?”

“No, sir.”

“Miss Dare, did the prisoner express to you at this time irritation as well as regret at the result of his efforts to elicit money from his aunt?”

“Yes,” was the evidently forced reply.

“Can you remember any words that he used which would tend to show the condition of his mind?”

“I have no memory for words,” she began, but flushed as she met the eye of the Judge, and perhaps remembered her oath. “I do recollect, however, one expression he used. He said: ‘My life is worth nothing to me without success. If only to win you, I must put this matter through; and I will do it yet.’”

She repeated this quietly, giving it no emphasis and scarcely any inflection, as if she hoped by her mechanical way of uttering it to rob it of any special meaning. But she did not succeed, as was shown by the compassionate tone in which Mr. Ferris next addressed her.

“Miss Dare, did you express any anger yourself at the refusal of Mrs. Clemmens to assist the prisoner by lending him such moneys as he required?”

“Yes, sir; I fear I did. It seemed unreasonable to me then, and I was very anxious he should have that opportunity to make fame and fortune which I thought his genius merited.”

“Miss Dare,” inquired the District Attorney, calling to his aid such words as he had heard from old Sally in reference to this interview, “did you make use of any such expression as this: ‘I wish I knew Mrs. Clemmens’?”

“I believe I did.”

“And did this mean you had no acquaintance with the murdered woman at that time?” pursued Mr. Ferris, half-turning to the prisoner’s counsel, as if he anticipated the objection which that gentleman might very properly make to a question concerning the intention of a witness.

And Mr. Orcutt, yielding to professional instinct, did indeed make a slight movement as if to rise, but became instantly motionless. Nothing could be more painful to him than to wrangle before the crowded court-room over these dealings between the woman he loved and the man he was now defending.

Mr. Ferris turned back to the witness and awaited her answer. It came without hesitation.

“It meant that, sir.”

“And what did the prisoner say when you gave utterance to this wish?”

“He asked me why I desired to know her.”

“And what did you reply?”

“That if I knew her I might be able to persuade her to listen to his request.”

“And what answer had he for this?”

“None but a quick shake of his head.”

“Miss Dare; up to the time of this interview had you ever received any gift from the prisoner — jewelry, for instance — say, a ring!”

“No, sir.”

“Did he offer you such a gift then?”

“He did.”

“What was it?”

“A gold ring set with a diamond.”

“Did you receive it?”

“No, sir. I felt that in taking a ring from him I would be giving an irrevocable promise, and I was not ready to do that.”

“Did you allow him to put it on your finger?”

“I did.”

“And it remained there?” suggested Mr. Ferris, with a smile.

“A minute, may be.”

“Which of you, then, took it off?”

“I did.”

“And what did you say when you took it off?”

“I do not remember my words.”

Again recalling old Sally’s account of this interview, Mr. Ferris asked:

“Were they these: ‘I cannot. Wait till to-morrow’?”

“Yes, I believe they were.”

“And when he inquired: ‘Why to-morrow?’ did you reply: ‘A night has been known to change the whole current of one’s affairs’?”

“I did.”

“Miss Dare, what did you mean by those words?”

“I object!” cried Mr. Orcutt, rising. Unseen by any save himself, the prisoner had made him an eloquent gesture, slight, but peremptory.

“I think it is one I have a right to ask,” urged the District Attorney.

But Mr. Orcutt, who manifestly had the best of the argument, maintained his objection, and the Court instantly ruled in his favor.

Mr. Ferris prepared to modify his question. But before he could speak the voice of Miss Dare was heard.

“Gentlemen,” said she, “there was no need of all this talk. I intended to seek an interview with Mrs. Clemmens and try what the effect would be of confiding to her my interest in her nephew.”

The dignified simplicity with which she spoke, and the air of quiet candor that for that one moment surrounded her, gave to this voluntary explanation an unexpected force that carried it quite home to the hearts of the jury. Even Mr. Orcutt could not preserve the frown with which he had confronted her at the first movement of her lips, but turned toward the prisoner with a look almost congratulatory in its character. But Mr. Byrd, who for reasons of his own kept his eyes upon that prisoner, observed that it met with no other return than that shadow of a bitter smile which now and then visited his otherwise unmoved countenance.

Mr. Ferris, who, in his friendship for the witness, was secretly rejoiced in an explanation which separated her from the crime of her lover, bowed in acknowledgment of the answer she had been pleased to give him in face of the ruling of the Court, and calmly proceeded:

“And what reply did the prisoner make you when you uttered this remark in reference to the change that a single day sometimes makes in one’s affairs?”

“Something in the way of assent.”

“Cannot you give us his words?”

“No, sir.”

“Well, then, can you tell us whether or not he looked thoughtful when you said this?”

“He may have done so, sir.”

“Did it strike you at the time that he reflected on what you said?”

“I cannot say how it struck me at the time.”

“Did he look at you a few minutes before speaking, or in any way conduct himself as if he had been set thinking?”

“He did not speak for a few minutes.”

“And looked at you?”

“Yes, sir.”

The District Attorney paused a moment as if to let the results of his examination sink into the minds of the jury; then he went on:

“Miss Dare, you say you returned the ring to the prisoner?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You say positively the ring passed from you to him; that you saw it in his hand after it had left yours?”

“No, sir. The ring passed from me to him, but I did not see it in his hand, because I did not return it to him that way. I dropped it into his pocket.”

At this acknowledgment, which made both the prisoner and his counsel look up, Mr. Byrd felt himself nudged by Hickory.

“Did you hear that?” he whispered.

“Yes,” returned the other.

“And do you believe it?”

“Miss Dare is on oath,” was the reply.

“Pooh!” was Hickory’s whispered exclamation.

The District Attorney alone showed no surprise.

“You dropped it into his pocket?” he resumed. “How came you to do that?”

“I was weary of the strife which had followed my refusal to accept this token. He would not take it from me himself, so I restored it to him in the way I have said.”

“Miss Dare, will you tell us what pocket this was?”

“The outside pocket on the left side of his coat,” she returned, with a cold and careful exactness that caused the prisoner to drop his eyes from her face, with that faint but scornful twitch of the muscles about his mouth, which gave to his countenance now and then the proud look of disdain which both the detectives had noted.

“Miss Dare,” continued the Prosecuting Attorney, “did you see this ring again during the interview?”

“No, sir.”

“Did you detect the prisoner making any move to take it out of his pocket, or have you any reason to believe that it was taken out of the pocket on the left-hand side of his coat while you were with him?”

“No, sir.”

“So that, as far as you know, it was still in his pocket when you parted?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Miss Dare, have you ever seen that ring since?”

“I have.”

“When and where?”

“I saw it on the morning of the murder. It was lying on the floor of Mrs. Clemmens’ dining-room. I had gone to the house, in my surprise at hearing of the murderous assault which had been made upon her, and, while surveying the spot where she was struck, perceived this ring lying on the floor before me.”

“What made you think it was this ring which you had returned to the prisoner the day before?”

“Because of its setting, and the character of the gem, I suppose.”

“Could you see all this where it was lying on the floor?”

“It was brought nearer to my eyes, sir. A gentleman who was standing near, picked it up and offered it to me, supposing it was mine. As he held it out in his open palm I saw it plainly.”

“Miss Dare, will you tell us what you did when you first saw this ring lying on the floor?”

“I covered it with my foot.”

“Was that before you recognized it?”

“I cannot say. I placed my foot upon it instinctively.”

“How long did you keep it there?”

“Some few minutes.”

“What caused you to move at last?”

“I was surprised.”

“What surprised you?”

“A man came to the door.”

“What man.”

“I don’t know. A stranger to me. Some one who had been sent on an errand connected with this affair.”

“What did he say or do to surprise you?”

“Nothing. It was what you said yourself after the man had gone.”

“And what did I say, Miss Dare?”

She cast him a look of the faintest appeal, but answered quietly:

“Something about its not being the tramp who had committed this crime.”

“That surprised you?”

“That made me start.”

“Miss Dare, were you present in the house when the dying woman spoke the one or two exclamations which have been testified to in this trial?”

“Yes, sir.”

“What was the burden of the first speech you heard?”

“The words Hand, sir, and Ring. She repeated the two half a dozen times.”

“Miss Dare, what did you say to the gentleman who showed you the ring and asked if it were yours?”

“I told him it was mine, and took it and placed it on my finger.”

“But the ring was not yours?”

“My acceptance of it made it mine. In all but that regard it had been mine ever since Mr. Mansell offered it to me the day before.”

Mr. Ferris surveyed the witness for a moment before saying:

“Then you considered it damaging to your lover to have this ring found in that apartment?”

Mr. Orcutt instantly rose to object.

“I won’t press the question,” said the District Attorney, with a wave of his hand and a slight look at the jury.

“You ought never to have asked it?” exclaimed Mr. Orcutt, with the first appearance of heat he had shown.

“You are right,” Mr. Ferris coolly responded. “The jury could see the point without any assistance from you or me.”

“And the jury,” returned Mr. Orcutt, with equal coolness, “is scarcely obliged to you for the suggestion.”

“Well, we won’t quarrel about it,” declared Mr. Ferris.

“We won’t quarrel about any thing,” retorted Mr. Orcutt. “We will try the case in a legal manner.”

“Have you got through?” inquired Mr. Ferris, nettled.

Mr. Orcutt took his seat with the simple reply:

“Go on with the case.”

The District Attorney, after a momentary pause to regain the thread of his examination and recover his equanimity, turned to the witness.

“Miss Dare,” he asked, “how long did you keep that ring on your finger after you left the house?”

“A little while — five or ten minutes, perhaps.”

“Where were you when you took it off?”

Her voice sank just a trifle:

“On the bridge at Warren Street.”

“What did you do with it then?”

Her eyes which had been upon the Attorney’s face, fell slowly.

“I dropped it into the water,” she said.

And the character of her thoughts and suspicions at that time stood revealed.

The Prosecuting Attorney allowed himself a few more questions.

“When you parted with the prisoner in the woods, was it with any arrangement for meeting again before he returned to Buffalo?”

“No, sir.”

“Give us the final words of your conversation, if you please.”

“We were just parting, and I had turned to go, when he said: ‘Is it good-by, then, Imogene?’ and I answered, ‘That to-morrow must decide.’ ‘Shall I stay, then?’ he inquired; to which I replied, ‘Yes.’”

’Twas a short, seemingly literal, repetition of possibly innocent words, but the whisper into which her voice sank at the final “Yes” endowed it with a thrilling effect for which even she was not prepared. For she shuddered as she realized the deathly quiet that followed its utterance, and cast a quick look at Mr. Orcutt that was full of question, if not doubt.

“I was calculating upon the interview I intended to have with Mrs. Clemmens,” she explained, turning toward the Judge with indescribable dignity.

“We understand that,” remarked the Prosecuting Attorney, kindly, and then inquired:

“Was this the last you saw of the prisoner until to-day?”

“No, sir.”

“When did you see him again?”

“On the following Wednesday.”

“Where?”

“In the depôt at Syracuse.”

“How came you to be in Syracuse the day after the murder?”

“I had started to go to Buffalo.”

“What purpose had you in going to Buffalo?”

“I wished to see Mr. Mansell.”

“Did he know you were coming?”

“No, sir.”

“Had no communication passed between you from the time you parted in the woods till you came upon each other in the depôt you have just mentioned?”

“No, sir.”

“Had he no reason to expect to meet you there?”

“No, sir.”

“With what words did you accost each other?”

“I don’t know. I have no remembrance of saying any thing. I was utterly dumbfounded at seeing him in this place, and cannot say into what exclamation I may have been betrayed.”

“And he? Don’t you remember what he said?”

“No, sir. I only know he started back with a look of great surprise. Afterward he asked if I were on my way to see him.”

“And what did you answer?”

“I don’t think I made any answer. I was wondering if he was on his way to see me.”

“Did you put the question to him?”

“Perhaps. I cannot tell. It is all like a dream to me.”

If she had said horrible dream, every one there would have believed her.

“You can tell us, however, if you held any conversation?”

“We did not.”

“And you can tell us how the interview terminated?”

“Yes, sir. I turned away and took the train back home, which I saw standing on the track without.”

“And he?”

“Turned away also. Where he went I cannot say.”

“Miss Dare”— the District Attorney’s voice was very earnest —“can you tell us which of you made the first movement to go?”

“What does he mean by that?” whispered Hickory to Byrd.

“I think ——” she commenced and paused. Her eyes in wandering over the throng of spectators before her, had settled on these two detectives, and noting the breathless way in which they looked at her, she seemed to realize that more might lie in this question than at first appeared.

“I do not know,” she answered at last. “It was a simultaneous movement, I think.”

“Are you sure?” persisted Mr. Ferris. “You are on oath, Miss Dare? Is there no way in which you can make certain whether he or you took the initiatory step in this sudden parting after an event that so materially changed your mutual prospects?”

“No, sir. I can only say that in recalling the sensations of that hour, I am certain my own movement was not the result of any I saw him take. The instinct to leave the place had its birth in my own breast.”

“I told you so,” commented Hickory, in the ear of Byrd. “She is not going to give herself away, whatever happens.”

“But can you positively say he did not make the first motion to leave?”

“No, sir.”

Mr. Ferris bowed, turned toward the opposing counsel and said:

“The witness is yours.”

Mr. Ferris sat down perfectly satisfied. He had dexterously brought out Imogene’s suspicions of the prisoner’s guilt, and knew that the jury must be influenced in their convictions by those of the woman who, of all the world, ought to have believed, if she could, in the innocence of her lover. He did not even fear the cross-examination which he expected to follow. No amount of skill on the part of Orcutt could extract other than the truth, and the truth was that Imogene believed the prisoner to be the murderer of his aunt. He, therefore, surveyed the court-room with a smile, and awaited the somewhat slow proceedings of his opponent with equanimity.

But, to the surprise of every one, Mr. Orcutt, after a short consultation with the prisoner, rose and said he had no questions to put to the witness.

And Miss Dare was allowed to withdraw from the stand, to the great satisfaction of Mr. Ferris, who found himself by this move in a still better position than he had anticipated.

“Byrd,” whispered Hickory, as Miss Dare returned somewhat tremulously to her former seat among the witnesses —“Byrd, you could knock me over with a feather. I thought the defence would have no difficulty in riddling this woman’s testimony, and they have not even made the effort. Can it be that Orcutt has such an attachment for her that he is going to let his rival hang?”

“No. Orcutt isn’t the man to deliberately lose a case for any woman. He looks at Miss Dare’s testimony from a different standpoint than you do. He believes what she says to be true, and you do not.”

“Then, all I’ve got to say, ‘So much the worse for Mansell!’” was the whispered response. “He was a fool to trust his case to that man.”

The judge, the jury, and all the by-standers in court, it must be confessed, shared the opinion of Hickory — Mr. Orcutt was standing on slippery ground.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/g/green/anna_katharine/hand_and_ring/chapter28.html

Last updated Friday, March 14, 2014 at 22:17