Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

sinister eye of the man, and his hag. ing. Some confess, and throw themgard, repulsive face, which gave a mo- selves on the mercy of the law. Others mentary check to the conversation, and keep their mouths tight, and accuse it no one answered him, but he went of injustice to the last. The first hope on,

for pardon, through its clemency. The “ Go on, don't let me stop talk. On last hope it, through the fear which with you. I want to break in on no every man has of shedding innocent man's humor. I've an odd humor of blood. He's one of the last. He bears my own; for I've heard that there's a it boldly, I'm told." man to be hanged to-morrow, and I've “ Harry Blake is no coward,” replied come fifty miles to see it. I was at Grayson. He says he's ready to die; the trial, and now I'm come to see if but ihat he is innocent. The love of he'll wear the same bold face when he life must be strong in him, for until dies that he did then."

now I never thought that he woul' “So you were at the trial ?” said Ca- lie, even to save his life. But he is not leb Grayson, who was leaning with his innocent-no-no, he is not; for I saw elbow on the table, and his cheek rest- him do it-I saw him. The love of ing on the palm of his hand, and look- life is very strong. It must be, or Haring gloomily in the fire.

ry Blake would not lie." Ay, I was, my man," said the

A slight, sneering smile flitted across stranger bluntly; * and I saw you the face of the stranger, as he turned there. You were the witness who from the speaker, and looked among swore that you saw bim stab Wick- the dull embers of the fire, without liffe. I was at your elbow at the speaking. It was a dim, dreary room, time. Your testimony did for him.” and its distant corners were lost in

The old man half started from his darkness; and the frame of the stranseat, and turned exceedingly pale, at ger, as he sat between the andirons, the same time pressing his hand across threw a gigantic, spectral shadow on his eyes. At last he said, in a low agi- the wall, ihat seemed to have sometated voice:

thing'ominous about it, and taken in con“ What could a man do? I was nection with the gloomy nature of the forced to go, and my answer was on conversation, and the cold indifference oath. I did see him stab him-I'm of the stranger, and his wild, forbidding

air, seemed to have thrown a chill on Then, of course, it was all right. all about him. For as he sat there, For my part, I'm glad he's to hang. I buried in deep thought, with his eyeshall be glad when he is out of the brows knit, and his lips working, as way. Had I been on the jury, and with suppressed emotion, those who known only what you stated, I would had hitherto hugged the fire began have brought in the same verdict."

slowly to widen the distance between The old man looked at him sharply, themselves and their ill-omened visitas he asked: “What do you mean? er; to scan his person, as if there were What else do you know ?"

more in it than met the eye, and to “ Know!" repeated the stranger, watch his tall shadow on the wall, as looking carelessly up, and drumming if there were something about it more with his whip upon his boot. “No than appertained to shadows in genthing. What could I know? You eral. Still they spoke pot, until the saw him murder the man, didn't you? object of their solicitude, as if concludYou swore to that. I should think there ing a long mental discussion, drew a was little more to be discovered."

heavy breath, and rising, said: " True, true," replied the other. Well, let him die. It's as well. “Yet this is a strange story of Harry's, Others have died in the same way.” and even now he persists in it, and in Turning to a sort of under-barkeeper, asserting his innocence. Poor fellow! who officiated in the absence of GarI always loved that boy as my own ret, he said : “See to my horse, will child.-I, I who have brought him to you? And now show me to my room, this end. Poor litle Mary Lincoln, too! and wake me at sunrise. I shall not it has killed her. Thank God, she is breakfast here." in her grave. It's better for her.” Those collected about the fire

“ Of course he'll insist to the last watched him as he followed the atthat he is not guilty," said the stran tendant out of the room, and shut the ger. “There's always two ways of dy- door after them.

sure I did.”

[ocr errors]

ness-a

me."

“What do you think of that man,

sad business—and he the Mr. Tompkins ?” said one of them to a flower of the country round. Ah, small man in an ample vest and con- neighbor Grayson, who would have tracted small-clothes.

thought it!" “Come, come, none of that,” said Caleb Grayson made no reply to the the small man, with an air of suspi- remarks in which the old man indulgcious stubbornness. " Don't be trying ed, until he opened the door of the to make ine commit myself by asking room or cell, and pointed to Blake, questions.” As he spoke he fixed his seated at a small wooden table within. eyes obstinately on his own finger Blake rose as the old man entered, nails-not that they were particularly and extended his hand to him. clean or ornamental.

“This is kind, Caleb," said he, “I “ Can't you speak your own mind, was afraid that you alone, of all my man !" said the other pettishly. friends, would noi call to see me; for

Still the small man ogled his nails. I know what you think of

“Well then," said his companion, “Ah! that's the reason, Harry, that I “I'll tell you what I think. I think,” could not come,” replied the other said he, sinking his voice, and placing sadly. “I knew that I had brought the back of his hand to the corner of you to this, and I could not bear to his mouth, by way of indicating the come and look at my work.” extreme of confidence, “I think he “Well, well, it's all past, and won't be drowned."

God knows I've little to live for now“ Ah!" said the small man, “ if poor Mary-she's gone,po matter, no that's all, I think so myself.”

matter;
the worst

is over-and And having settled this matter to you must'nt lay it to heart, Caleb-you their mutual satisfaction, they rose to acted for the best, and we'll not talk go, a motion in which they were fol- of it." lowed by all except Caleb Grayson, “ But we must talk of it, we must," who, long after they were gone, and exclaimed the old man. “In spite of the room was silent and deserted, sat all that I felt, it's what I came for. If there, with a heavy heart, at the part I would die easy, I must know the which the law had forced him to take truth; and I have come here, Harry, to in the legal murder which was to take beg, to conjure you to tell it." place on the morrow. At last he “You have heard it already,” said started up as if a sudden thought had Harry, sadly. struck him, and finding his way to the “No, no, Harry, I have not; I know stable, saddled his horse and rode off. I have not,” said he, “but you will

It was a dark night. Black clouds tell it to me now." were drifting across the sky, obscuring Harry Blake turned his head away, it, and together with the tall trees and was silent. and forests which in places overhung “ Harry, my dear boy,” said the old the road, rendering it pitchy dark. In man, crouching at his feet, and pressing defiance of the threatening look of the his forehead against his knees, “my sky and the obscurity of the road, the own dear boy, do confess to me. I old man kept steadily on for several will render more happy a life that is hours, neither pausing to rest his nearly spent to have my statement conbeast nor to refresh himself, until it firmed from your own lips. Don't be was broad daylight, when he arrived afraid of me, Harry; for here I swear, at a large wooden building. Stopping in the presence of the God who made for the first time, he fastened his us both, that I will not reveal what horse to the gate, and crossing a small you tell me. Indeed I will not. Come, yard, ascended a flight of steps and Harry, come.” entered the hall.

“ Caleb,” said Blake, passing his A guard was pacing up and down hand kindly over the old man's head, there; and near him, on a wooden from my soul I pity you; but I canbench, sat an old man reading a wornout Bible.

“ You pity me !" said the old man, Can I see Blake ?" demanded rising. “Am I the one to be pitied ? Grayson of the old man.

No, no, not quite so bad as that; not “Yes, yes, I suppose you can,” re- quite so bad as that. I'll not believe it, plied he, putting aside his book; “I've say what you will. With my own onion in admit his friends-a sad busi- eyes, Hairy, I saw you commit that

not lie.”

you."

murder. Indeed I did - indeed I wasn't it so? You know you quardid !!

relled with him at the tavern." Blake shook his head; “ You think "I did, indeed," said Harry, gloomily, so, I know you think so; I'll do you “God forgive me for it.” that justice. But your eyes deceived " And you swore that you would you. It's useless to dwell on this now. have revenge if it cost you your life." You have done what the law made “It was an impious speech!" reyour duty, in telling what you believed plied Blake in a grave tone, “and fearto be truth. I should have had to do the fully has it been visited upon me." same myself; and 1 freely forgive “ You left the tavern,” continued

Grayson eagerly, “ took the same road “ No, no, Harry,” said Grayson, with which he had taken ; came up with childish querulousness, “this will not him" do. Why will you not tell the truth? “ And found him dead !" said Blake. You cannot be saved now. All hope "I'll not believe it! It's not true," is past. Come, there's a good fellow. exclaimed the old man, striding up and You met-you quarrelled-words grew down the room with his hands clasped high-he attacked you,-and finally together. “It's not true. Oh! Harry, you-you-stabbed him. Ha ! ha! it's horrible to go to the grave persistthat was the way of it, wasn't it? A ing in a lie.” man will do many things when his · Hark!” said Blake, as the voices blood's up, which he wouldn't at ano. of persons approaching the door, were ther time. Your hot blood couldn't heard. “It's the hour, and they are bear all that he said. It was natural, coming for me! Good bye !" and I think pardonable; indeed I do." “One word, Harry !” exclaimed the He placed his hands on Blake's shoul- old man, “are you guilty ?" ders, and looking imploringly in his “No!" replied Blake, with an earface, whilst his voice changed from its nest emphasis. assumed tone of vivacity to one of the The next moment the door was deepest sadness, Harry, wasn't it opened, and Blake was summoned to so ? Tell me, my own dear boy, go forth.

66

CHAPTER VI.

By day-break the country around was degrees, the tumult subsided, and they astir; men singly, and squads of three were quiet again. Then they looked or four-women and children, old and at the sun, and wondered how soon young, the hale, the sick, the decrepit, Harry would come—they were weary were all in motion, and drifting, like a with waiting. Some spoke of him as sluggish current, towards the scene of of an old friend. He was a fine felexecution.

low--they had known him from childIt was a large field, in a retired, out- hood. “Has he confessed yet ?" inof-the-way spot, hemmed in by trees; quired one, “No, no, not he," was the a place whose silence and solitude reply, “He'll not give up till the last; were rarely disturbed; yet now it it's ihought he'll do it ihen. I heard hummed with life. Fences, rocks, and some one say, that old Caleb Grayson every little eminence of ground, were was all last night in his cell, trying to packed with people. The trees were pump out of him; but he was game. crowded with masses of human Caleb could get nothing from him.” beings, who hung like bees from their “Come, I like that,” said the other, branches, and near the foot of the gal- rubbing his hands together. “ That's lows, the earth was black with them, so like Harry; I'll bei ten to one, he'll crammed and wedged together,—not a not show the white feather at the last. foot--not an inch to spare. There was Ha! who's that ?” a great sea of faces, turned up at one As he spoke, he pointed to a tall, time to the tall frame-work above swarthy man, who came forcing his them; at another, towards where the way through the crowd, jostling them far distant road wound among the hither and thither, heeding not the hills. Occasionally there was a scuf- grumblings and cursings which folfile, and the mass rocked to and fro, lowed him, as he dragged himself on; like a forest waving before the wind; once or twice, as some fellow more and then came curses and execrations sturdy than the rest withstood him, he

m the writhing multitude; but by turned and glanced at him, with a look

of such savage and bitter anger, that but he lost the scent. Then I carried the man was glad to let him pass. him to Harry Blake; but he would not Thus on he went, until he reached the touch him.' very foot of the gallows; and there he “A strange dog." fixed himself, taking notice of no one, “Damme, sir!” said the man earnand regardless that even in that dense estly. “Do you know that he's been crowd a small circle was formed snuffing about you for the last ten around him, as if there were contami- minutes. Curse me if I havn't my nation in his touch. Above him, from suspicions of you: d-d if I havn't.” the cross-piece of the gallows, the The stranger's eyes fairly glowed as cord swung to and fro in the wind; and he returned his look ; and then he burst at times, as he raised his eye to it, a into a loud laugh, and turned to those smile crossed his face, giving to it a around : strangely wild expression, that was “ Hear him! He says I murdered long remembered by those who saw Wickliffe, beca ase his dog smells at him there.

my knee. Ha! ha! ha! Why don't “ There'll soon be something to tight, you arrest me ?" demanded he, turning en that string,” said he, to a tall, barly to the man. man who stood nearest to him, with The man, evidently abashed at thi his good-natured eye running from the abrupt question, shook his head, mutspeaker to the cord, as if it struck him, tered something between his teeth, and that the weight most fitting for that remained silent; and the stranger, after purpose were nearer than he imagined. eyeing him for several moments, see

Yes, there will, more's the pity," ing that he was not disposed for further said the man, in reply to the remark, conversation, and apparently not caring after pausing for some time, as if in to be the object of attention to all eyes, doubt whether it merited one, “I for as he evidently then was, moved off one am sorry for it."

among the crowd, and stationed him“Would you have the murderer es- self on the opposite side of the galcape?” demanded the stranger, lows.

Let him hang when he's found, The time lagged heavily. The crowd say I,” replied the man, “but Harry grew restless and uneasy; and here Blake denies that he did it, and I be- and there, one or two, irritated beyond lieve him."

their patience, commenced a quarrel, Again that strange smile passed which came to blows. This created a across the stranger's face, as he said, temporary excitement, but it was soon 66 Twelve sworn men, all of whom over, and by degrees they grew weaknew and liked Blake, heard the testi- ried again. They stamped their feet mony, and said he did it. What more on the ground, to keep them warm. would you want ?"

The farmers talked of their harvest “I want Harry Blake's own conses, and of their stock. Some of them sion, and we would have it, if he was gaped and yawned, and fell sound guilty. That's what I want. I wish asleep as they stood there. Young to Heaven, I had found him with girls flirted with and ogled their sweetthe murdered man, I would have soon hearts, and there was many a pretty known the truth. I went to the spot face in that crowd, whose owner had the next day, but it was too late.” been induced to come only for the sake

“What do you mean ?” inquired the of him who was to escort her there, stranger with some interest.

and who was thinking more of the The man moved a little aside, and young fellow who stood at her side, in showed the head of a large dog, who his best apparel, than of poor Harry was seated near him, with his nose Blake. These, and the troops of liberthrust forward, almost touching the ated schoolboys, to whom a holiday stranger. “I went with that dog to was a great thing, even though bought the spot, and I put his nose to the by the life of a fellow-being, were the track. He went round and round, and only persons unwearied. over the ground for more than a quar But the time came at last, and a loud ter of a mile. In the woods he found cry arose in the distance, and swept an old hat, which he tore to rags. I along through that multitude, becombelieve it belonged to the true mur. ing louder and louder, until it reached derer,—(he was smelling that hat this the foot of the gallows; and the whole very morning, for I took it with me, mass swayed backward and forward,

and rushed and crowded together, as “Now, Harry, now confess : do, in the distance the prisoner was seen Harry-for God's sake!" approaching. With a slow, steady Blake shook his head. “ No, Caleb, pace the soldiers which escorted him I cannot, for I am innocent." came, forcing open the throng, and These were his last words; for in a keeping an open space around the cart few minutes the drop fell, and poor which conveyed him. Harry Blake Blake's earthly career was ended. was exceedingly pale, but his manner “ Ha! ha!" exclaimed the same was composed, and his eye calm and swarthy man who had stood during bright as in his best days; and many a lip the whole time at the foot of the galas he passed, muttered a God bless him. lows, and whom Grayson recognized

He spoke 10 no one; although his as the person that he had met at face once or twice faintly lighted with a the inn the night previous. “ That look of recognition as he saw a familiar business is over. That's law !" And, face. When he reached the foot of the without noticing the startled looks of scaffold his eye for a moment rested on those about him, with the same reckCaleb Grayson, looking imploringly lessness which he had displayed in toward him. The old man caught his coming, he forced his way through the glance, and exclaimed, as he ascended crowd, and disappeared. ihe steps:

CHAPTER VII.

ABOUT three months after the execu- idle to hope," said he; “nothing can tion of Blake, the judge who presided prevent your execution.” at the trial received a note from a pri “ An application might be made to soner under sentence of death, request- the higher authorities," said the priing to see him without delay, as his soner.

“ Pardons have come, you sentence was to be carried into effect know, even on the scaffold." on the day following. On his way None will come in your case," rethither, he overtook an old man, walk- plied the magistrate. « It is needless ing slowly along the road, on accosting for me to dwell on your offence pow; whom he recognized him to be Caleb but it was one that had no palliation, Grayson, who had been a witness at and you may rest assured that whatBlake's trial. The old man had re ever may have occurred in other cases, ceived a note similar to his own; and no pardon will come in yours. In fact, was going to the same place, though I understand that an application has he was equally at a loss to know the been made for one, by your counsel, meaning of the summons. They both and has been refused." entered the cell together.

The features of the prisoner underThe prisoner was seated at a wooden went no change; nor did the exprestable, with a small lamp in front of sion of his face alter in the least. But him, his forehead leaning on his hand, after a moment's pause, he said: Is which shaded his eyes from the light this true, judge—upon your honor ?" He was a tall, gaunt man, with dark • It is,” replied the judge. sunken eyes, and unshorn beard, and “ Then I know the worst,” replied hollow cheeks. He looked like one the criminal coldly, “and will now worn down by suffering and disease; tell, what I have to communicate, yet one whom neither disease nor suf- which I would not have done, while fering could conquer, and to whom re- there was a hope of escape. You," morse was unknown. He did not said he, turning to the judge, “ premove when his visiters entered, other sided at the trial of young Henry Blake, wise than to raise his head. As he did who was accused of murder, and senso Grayson recognized at a glance the tenced him to death." stranger whom he had seen at the “ I did." tavern the night before Blake's execu “And you," said he, turning to tion, and at the gallows.

Grayson, were one of the witnesses “Well

, judge,” said he, as soon as he against him. You swore that you saw saw who they were, “I sent for you, him stab Wickliffe. On your testimony, to see if you can't get me out of this principally, he was hung." scrape. Must I hang to-morrow ?" “I was,” replied the old man; “I

The judge shook his head. “ It's saw him with my own eyes.”

« AnteriorContinuar »