Charlotte Mary Yonge.

The trial: More links of the daisy chain (Volume 1) online

. (page 21 of 21)
Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeThe trial: More links of the daisy chain (Volume 1) → online text (page 21 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

brother's back, and nodded his approval to liis father. Even


Leonard lifted up his face, and shot across a look, as if he
felt deliverance near after the weary day, that seemed to
have heen a lifetime already, though the sunbeams were only
beginning to fall high and yellow on the ceiling, through the
heated stifling atmosphere, heavy with anxiety and suspense.
Doctor May was thinking of the meeting after the acquittal,
of the telegram to Stoneborough, of "the sister's revival, and
of Ethel's greetmg.

Still the judge had to sum up ; and all eyes turned on
him, knowing that the fate of the accused would probably
depend on the colouring that the facts adduced would assume
in his hands. Flora, who met him in society, was struck
by the grave and melancholy bracing, as it were, of the
countenance, that she had seen as kindly and bright as her
father's ; and the deep, full v(jice, sad rather than stern, the
very tone of which conveyed to every mind how heavy was
the responsibility of justice and impartiality. In effect, the
very force of the persuasions made for the defence, un-
answered by the prosecution, rendered it needful for him to
give full weight to the evidence for the other side ; namely,
the prisoner's evident impatience of his position, and pre-
meditated flight, the coincidence of the times, the being the
last person seen to enter the room, and with the very weapon
that had been the instrument of the crime ; the probability
that the deceased had himself opened the drawer, the open
window, the flight, and the missing sum being found on his
person, the allegation that the receipt would be found in the
pocket-book, unsupported by any testimony as to the practice
of the deceased ; the strangeness of leaving the premises so
much too early for the train, and, by his own account, leaving
a person prowling in the court, close to his uncle's window.



No opinion was given ; but there was something that gave a
sense that the judge felt it a crushing weight of evidence.
Yet so minutely was every point examined, so carefully was
every indication weighed which could tend to establish the
prisoner's innocence, that to those among his audience who
believed that innocence indubitable, it seemed as if his argu-
ments proved it, even more triumphantly than the pleading
of the counsel, as, vibrating between hope and fear, anxiety
and gratitude, they followed him from point to point of the
unhappy incident, hanging upon every word, as though each
were decisive.

^Vhen at length he ceased, and the jury retired, the breath-
less stillness continued. With some, indeed, there was the
relaxation of long-strained attention, eyes unbent, and heads
turned ; but Flora had to pass her arm round her Kttle sister,
to steady the child's nervous trembling ; Aubrey sat rigid
and upright, the throbs of his heart well-nigh audible ; and
Dr. May leant forward, and covered his eyes with his hand ;
Tom, who alone dared glance to the dock, saw that Leonard
too had retired. Those were the most terrible minutes they
had ever spent in their lives ; but they were minutes of hope
— of hope of relief from a burthen, becoming more intoler-
able with every second's delay ere the rebound.

Long as it seemed to them, it was not in reality more than
a quarter of an hour before the jury returned, and with slow
grave movements, and serious countenances, resumed their
places. Leonard was already in his ; his cheek paler, his
fingers locked together, and his eyes scanning each as they
came forward, and one by one their names were called over.
His head was erect, and his bearing had something undaunted,
though intensely anxious.


The question was put by the clerk of the court, " How find
you ? guilty or not guilty 1 "

Firmly, though sadly, the foreman rose, and his answer
was, " "We find the prisoner guilty ; but we earnestly recom-
mend him to mercy."

^Vhether Tom felt or not that Aubrey was in a dead faint,
and rested against him as a senseless weight, he paid no
visible attention to aught but one face, on which his eyes
were riveted as though nothing would ever detach them —
and that face was not the prisoner's.

Others saw Leonard's face raised upwards, and a deep red
flush spread over brow and cheek, though neither lip nor eye

Then came the question whether the prisoner had any-
thing to say, wherefore judgment should not be passed upon

Leonard made a step forward, and his clear steady tone
did not shake for a moment as he spoke. " Xo. I see that
appearances are so much against me, that man can hardly
decide otherwise. I have known from the first that nothing
could show my innocence but the finding of the receipt. In
the absence of that one testimony, I feel that I have had a
fair trial, and that all has been done for me that could be
done ; and I thank you for it, my Lord, and you, Gentlemen,"
as he bent his head ; then added, " I should like to say one
thing more. My Lord, you would not let the question be
asked, how I brought all this upon myself. I wish to say it
myself, for it is that which makes my sentence just in the
sight of God. It is true that, though I never lifted my hand
against my poor uncle, I did in a moment of passion fling a
stone at my brother, which, but for God's mercy, might indeed

X 2


have made me a murderer. It was for this, and other like
outbreaks, that I was sent to the IMill ; and it may be just
that for it T should die — though indeed I never hurt my

Perhaps there was something in tlie tone of that one word,
indeed, which by recalling his extreme youth, touched all
hearts more than even the manly tone of his answer, and his
confession. There was a universal weeping and sobbing
throughout the court ; Mrs. Pugh was on the verge of
hysterics, and obliged to be supported away ; and Gertrude
was choking between the agony of contagious feeling and
dread of Flora's displeasure ; and all the time Leonard stood
calm, w^th his brave head and lofty bearing, wound up for
the awful moment of the sentence.

The weeping was hushed, when the crier of the court made
proclamation, commanding all persons on pain of imprison-
ment to be silent. Then the judge placed on his head the
black cap, and it was with trembling hands that he did so ;
the blood had entirely left his face, and his lips were purple
with the struggle to contend with and suppress his emotion.
He paused, as though he were girding himself up to the most
terrible of duties, and when he spoke his voice was hollow,
as he began :

" Leonard Axworthy "Ward, you have been found guilty of
a crime, that would have appeared impossible in one removed
from temptation by birth and education such as yours have
been. What the steps may have been that led to such guilt,
must lie between your own conscience and that God whose
justice you have acknowledged. To Him you have evidently
been taught to look ; and may you use the short time that
still remains to you, in seeking His forgiveness by sincere


repentance. I will forward th.e recommendation to mercy, but
it is my duty to warn you that there are no such palliating
circumstances in the evidence, as to warrant any expectation
of a remission of the sentence."

And therewith followed the customary form of sentence,
ending with the solemn "And may God Almighty have
mercy on your soul !"

Full and open, and never quailing, had the dark eyes been
fixed upon the judge all the time ; and at those last words,
the head bent low, and the lips moved for " Amen."

Then Tom, relieved to find instant occupation for his
father, drew his attention to Aubrey's state ; and the boy
between Tom and George Eivers was, as best they could,
carried through the narrow outlets, and laid down in a room,
opened to them by the sheriff, where his father and Flora
attended him, while Tom flew for remedies ; and Gertrude
sobbed and wept as she had never done in her life.

It was some time before the swoon yielded, or Dr. May
could leave his son, and then he was bent on at once going
to the prisoner ; but he was so shaken and tremulous, that
Tom insisted on giving him his arm, and held an umbrella
over him in the driving rain.

" Father," he said, as soon as they were in the street, " I
can swear who did it."

Dr. May just hindered himself from uttering the name ;
but Tom answered as if it had been spoken.

" Yes. I saw the face of fiendish barbarity that once was
over me, when I was a miserable little schoolboy ! He did
it ; and he has the receipt."

Dr. May squeezed his arm. " I have not betrayed the
secret, have IV


"You knew that he knew it !"

" Not knew — suspected — generosity."

" I saw him ! I saw him cast those imploring earnest eyes
of his on the scoundrel as he spoke of the receipt — and the
villain try to make himself of stone. AYell, if I have one
wish in life, it is to see that fellow come to the fate he
deserves. I'll never lose sight of him ; I'll dog him like a
hlood-hound ! "

** And what good will that do, when — Tom, Tom, we must
move Heaven and earth for petitions. I'll take them up
myself and get George Rivers to take me to the Home Secre-
tary. Never fear, while there's justice in Heaven."

"Here's Henry!" exclaimed Tom, withholding his father,
who had almost run against the brother, as they encountered
round a corner.

He was pale and bewildered, and hardly seemed to hear
the doctor's hasty asseverations that he would get a

" He sent me to meet you," said Henry. " He wants you
to go home — to Ave I mean. He says that is what he wants
most — for 3^ou to go to her now, and to come to him to-
morrow, or when you can ; and he wants to hear how Aubrey
is," continued Henry, as if dreamily repeating a lesson.

"He saw then— r'

" Yes ; and that seems to trouble him most."

Dr. May was past speaking, and Tom was obliged to
answer for him — that Aubrey was pretty well again, and
had desired his dearest, dearest love ; then asked how
Leonard was.

"Calm and firm as ever," said Henry, half choked.
" Nothing seems to upset him, but speaking of — of you and


Aubrey, Dr. ]May — and poor Ave. But — but they'll be toge-
ther before long."

" 'No such thing," said Dr. May. "You will see that cer-
tainty cures, when susj^ense kills ; and for him, I'll never
believe but that all will be right yet. Are you going home ] "

" I shall try to be with — with the dear unhappy boy as
long as I can, and then I'll come home."

Dr. May grasped Henry's hand, gave a promise of coming,
and a message of love to the prisoner ; tried to say something
more, but broke down, and let Tom lead him away.



1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 21

Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeThe trial: More links of the daisy chain (Volume 1) → online text (page 21 of 21)