The House of the Whispering Pines, by Anna Katharine Green

xxix

“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.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/g/green/anna_katharine/house_of_the_whispering_pines/chapter29.html

Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:37