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of the forest glory close at hand, and a brawling | The rumor added a thousand horrors to the tale, stream dashing over rocks, and birds, and flowers, of which no more was actually established truth and all that God gave to Eden except only inno- than the fact that Mrs. Forster was poisoned the cence. Yet there was one long war in that house, evening previous, and was already dead. the father on the one side and the mother and The young man had returned from the city the son on the other—for she won the boy from him. day before with a package of various articles, They contended long for him and his love. Even which he had brought professedly for chemical in his childhood he learned that he could not love purposes. It was supposed he had procured some both, and that he must select one or the other to deadly poison among these, for the effect had attach himself to. He hesitated and varied from been swift and certain. day to day, as children do, and it was months, Certainly the internal state of that household even years, before he fully decided; but when he was no worse than it had been for years. For chose it was forever. Nothing could move, shake, her, the care-worn, weary mother, doubtless that or change him. At the first, after this determin- repose was profound and welcome after the long ation became manifest, the father, with his accus- storm. She seemed to be resting in peace as she tomed malignity, sent him away to school a hun | lay there, and the angry waves of the sea of her dred miles from home. But the six months of life had heard the “Peace, be still" of a heavenly his absence convinced the hard-hearted man that voice, and had obeyed. The husband stood near his house was unbearable if he and his wife were her while strangers came in and looked with far to have no one between them, and he recalled the more interest than he on the placid countenance boy, and contented himself with hating both him of the dead wife, and his countenance wore a and his mother. And so the boy grew to man- steady, motionless look, in which no trace of sufhood, ignorant, save as his mother had taught fering, or of emotion, or regret could be found. him, yet marvelously gentle and lovely. He at He neither wept nor smiled ; but occasionally length became the light of the house to those who strode up and down the long room in which her knew the family, and his presence was welcomed body lay, and uttered some expression of disconevery where. In all the country gatherings he tent at the tardiness of the coroner and his jury, was the star; and at length he began to extend and then resumed his position near a window, and his limits, and once in a while ventured as far as near his dead companion. Stephen was in strict the city. Here or somewhere, it matters not confinement in an upper room by order of his fawhere, he began for the first time to appreciate ther, and no one knew what was going on there. the importance of knowledge, and to understand No one that knew him and his love for that mothhis own inferiority to young men of his class and er, would believe it possible that he had murdered standing. Grieved and abashed at the discovery her, and yet the case was said to be even clearer of his ignorance, he set about repairing the loss, than circumstantial evidence, for the father himand for two years he was a book-worm, devouring self had seen the son mingling the fatal draught, every thing that came within his reach. It is as- and had not dreamed of its nature till the catastonishing how much an active mind may accom- trophe proclaimed it. plish in so brief a space of time; and at the end I was visiting at a friend's house in the neighof these two years he had learned as much as borhood and heard of the occurrence. I may be most boys would in ten. But he was not satis- pardoned for adding that the daughter of my fied with this brief period of study. He had friend was not visible that morning at breakfast, learned to love study for its own sake, and he having heard the terrible history from a servant, confined himself now to his room ; and strange and having been a very close friend of young stories got abroad of the events that were passing Stephen. in the old house, to which no one had access. Why need I disguise the truth. This is in
At last the old Judge died, leaving his entire tended to be a simple history, without plot or fortune to Stephen Forster the younger, subject plan, other than to relate each incident as it oconly to a life estate of his mother in the real prop-curred, and I may therefore say at once that she erty. This was more than a year before Stephen loved him with a woman's adoring love, and that entered his majority, and when his life was most she was not unloved in return. That she scored closely devoted to his books and studies. And the story of his guilt you will not doubt, and it this brings us to the period at which I first be- was at her suggestion that I rode over to the incame acquainted with the father and son. quest.
A rumor flies in the country with windlike ve- I had never seen them before. Never heard locity. It was one of those soft spring mornings of them indeed. Yet I was struck with both when the sky seems immeasurably deep, and the faces; of the father quite as much as that of the air is laden with life and health ; when the birds son. The latter was noble and manly-a keen sing loudest, and the wind's voice is softest, and black eye gleamed with the look of conscious the gurgle of the spring brook is most musical ; innocence, not unmingled with hatred of the it was on such a morning that a terrible rumor father, who had suffered him to stand bound by spread over — county, and even on the oppo- his dead mother, accused of murdering her. The site side of the river. The story was that Mrs. father's face was pale, calm, even lofty. But he Forster had been poisoned by her son for the sake avoided the eye of his son, and looked only where of having his fortune unencumbered, and that he he was certain of receiving no answering look, had also poisoned his father in the same bowl. even into the face of the sleeping woman who had been his wife and that boy's mother. She the family of my friend Wilson-where, if I delooked neither lovingly nor reproachfully at him sired it, I should go to find a spice of romance now. It was never thus before, and somehow and sentiment to add to this history--I shall leave he had no difficulty in keeping his gaze fixed on for the imagination of those who have defended her, so wonderful was that placid silence. friends against the verdict of a harsh world. Let · I shall not pause here to describe the curious me therefore pass on immediately to the courtevidence which was presented to the coroner's room and the trial of Stephen Forster, which jury going to establish the guilt of the son. It took place some two months after the death of is incredible to one not accustomed to these the mother. scenes, the amount of evidence that may be It was a hot summer day. The day was opamassed against even an innocent man. And in pressive at the early hour when I was roused to this case, as step by step, without aid or sugges- go over to the court-house, and as I rode across tion, the testimony revealed itself, one by one the the country, the sultry air was exceedingly disfriends of young Stephen dropped away from piriting. I had not taken charge of the defense him, and I was left, as lawyers often are, alone myself. Two eminent counsel were engaged, by the side of my client, for such he had now familiar with criminal practice, men of keen inbecome.
tellect, and whose experience in that branch of On my word, I believe that but for the clear, the profession enabled them to catch at every confident tones of Mary Wilson's voice assuring chance for life, and to detect every flaw, however me of his innocence, I should have believed the minute, in the links of the evidence opposed to story myself, and left the matricide to his fate. them.
The jury adjourned till evening, to allow a post- It was a very old court-room in which the mortem examination to take place, and during trial took place. The bench for the court was at this interval I sought a meeting with the father. the end opposite to the entrance, and consisted The result of it is given in the words with which of a raised platform, with a table on it, and a rail this history commences. It was my last argu- in front of it, which looked as if it might have ment to a father's heart, that attempt to move done service in a colonial court. On each side him, by the love of his son, to some exertion on of the doorway the seats were elevated one above behalf of the boy.
the other, rising toward the rear of the room, so “If you do not aid him he will perish." that you entered between two walls which grew " Then let him die."
lower as you advanced to the bar. The only bar I looked suddenly into the man's countenance. I was a high, close board fence-I can call it nothing He was a tall, thin man, of even commanding else--sweeping in a semicircle around the room, appearance, and the eye did not dispute the inclosing the seats and tables for the gentlemen of stories I had heard of his former life, that he had the profession. The prisoner's box was outside been dissolute, and that of late he had resorted of this fence, elevated above it, and arranged with again at times to the companions and employ- due reference to the impossibility of an escape. ments of his younger years. As I looked into The audience occupied the elevated seats in the his face the idea came over me with lightning rear, and some vacant places behind the jury box, force that the motive for murder was quite as which was on the judge's left. The latter mengreat on his part as on that of the son, for could tioned space was generally occupied by ladies, he but kill the mother and hang the son, the in- when any case was on trial which interested them. heritance of ample farms and funds would be his On the occasion of which I now write there was alone. Could it be possible? It was a terrible not room there for them. Long before the hour thought, but the life of a city practitioner had of opening, the court-room was thronged with the even then accustomed me to such ideas, though female population of the county, almost to the it was in the younger years of my practice. exclusion of the men who came from all quarters
I returned to Stephen, and talked with him. to attend this, the first murder trial in their neighHis astonishment at his position had by this borhood. The jurors were in their places an hour time given way to grief for his mother, and he before the time, as if they feared that the crowd was weeping bitterly, yet such tears as no mur- would prevent their being admitted. The bar derer ever wept. I paused while he recovered was, as usual, thronged with lawyers and their calmness, and the deep serenity of his grief over-clerks, chatting, laughing, and joking, as if tho powered me for a moment, while I looked at him. most important question of the day were how to The conviction of his innocence grew on me as keep cool, and no one had any thing to do with I talked with him, but the weight of evidence the life or death of a young, strong man. against him was overpowering, and the examina- ! The prisoner was brought in before the court tion, which was now concluded, had confirmed was opened, and took his seat in the box. He the worst aspect of the case. It needed only the turned his gaze for a moment around the crowded proof, furnished within a few days, of the chemist room, catching the eyes of many that he had in New York from whom he had purchased the known and loved for years. There was one face article, to complete as strong a chain of evidence that he knew as that of one of his mother's friends, as ever bound a man to the prospect of ignomini- a kindly woman who had held him on her knees ous death.
| a hundred times. She looked into his face with I pass over all the incidental history in con- a longing gaze, that asked him as plainly as if he nection with this sorrowful affair. The effect in had heard the words, whether indeed he were
guilty of that horrible crime. And the reply was of pain ; and the eagerness with which the vicas plain, as legible, or audible, whichever you tim is hunted to the death, while every avenue choose to call it, as was the question. Every of escape is guarded and stopped, is absolutely one who knew the relation of that boy to the good appalling. Let us look and labor for improvewoman, knew that his answer was true, and if ment in these customs of the courts, and for a there had been doubt before, it fled before that substitution of impartial, substantial justice in the clear, bright look of rectitude and calmness. place of the two-sided contests which now as
And now the presiding judge entered the court-sume the name of justice, and in which court and room. For a little while there was a gathering jurors vainly strive not to enlist their feelings near him, and he chatted pleasantly with the mem- with one or the other side, and which result bers of the bar whom he knew, and then took his necessarily in the escape of the guilty, or the seat. Before opening court, and even while the punishment of the innocent, quite as often as in clerk was calling the jury, he occupied himself correct verdicts. in reading a newspaper from the city, interrupt- In the trial of which I now write, the prosoing himself occasionally, or allowing himself to cuting attorney was a man of undoubted talent, be interrupted, to grant an order or sign a paper whose life had been devoted to his profession, and thrust before him by an audacious attorney who regarded a verdict of not guilty as in all
At the moment when Stephen Forster was ar-cases a triumph over himself, which he must raigned and pleaded to the indictment, a vailed strive against with might and main. lady, leaning on the arm of a well-known country He opened the case to the jury with deliberagentleman, entered the private door of the court- tion, but with tremendous force. He detailed the room from the sheriff's apartments, and took a simple incidents of the family history with tellseat near the judge, and within the bar. I needing effect. He had not spoken ten minutes benot conceal the fact that this was Miss Wilson, fore the audience began to look dark, and a gloom whose faith remained unshaken to the last, al settled on the countenances of all present; for though I doubt much whether the prisoner recog- there were few in that crowd who had not loved nized her at first, or until his vision had pene- Stephen Forster, and who did not feel deeply his trated the folds of her vail, at a moment when she awful position. was remarkably occupied in listening to the open- As the counsel stated the testimony which he ing counsel.
proposed to offer, there was a hopeless look in There is one prominent fault in our system of the eyes of the whole assembly which I have administering justice, which is derived from old never seen before nor since in all my practice, times in England. I allude to the prescribed and when he closed, there was a feeling of relief, course of conduct on the part of the prosecuting a momentary breathing, as if a weight were reofficer. I know by experience how difficult it is moved from the breast of every one. for the attorney for the State to get rid of the pro- Then came the testimony, slowly piling up its fessional idea of antagonism which requires him, mountain-load on the young man's fate. if possible, to be successful in the contest. But First of all was the medical testimony, describit is manifest at a glance that the whole duty of ing minutely, and in terms which physicians alone the district attorney consists in having a fair, im- know how to use, the death and the causes of partial statement presented to the jury, and then death. Then followed the long cross-examinalaying before them the entire testimony, while he tion, which failed to shake the calm medical men, takes care that no improper or illegal course is and the State called its next witness. pursued by the defense. The custom of suppres- The day wore along slowly and painfully, and ing testimony, of not subpenaing witnesses whose the evening approached. The court had taken a evidence is likely to favor the prisoner, of stretch- short recess for dinner, and an interruption of a ing rules of law to their utmost tension, or with few minutes now occurred, during which I apthe aid of an easy court, even beyond all legiti- proached the prisoner and conversed with him. mate bounds—the laboring assiduously with all | He seemed to have made up his mind to a verthe force, talent, and trickery of the profession dict of guilty, and to be weary of the delay. combined, to procure a conviction, and the opposing 1 “I wish it were over," he said ; "why torture every effort of the prisoner to establish innocence me in this way? I do not love life enough to and good character, all this is an offense against pay this price for it. I have had but one wish justice which prevails to too great an extent among since I sat here to-day, and that was, that I had officers of the State in our courts, and which by died like my old friend, three years ago. no means tends to procure justice or to secure “It was a summer night like this, the clouds the punishment of crime, since it reduces trials at lay even as now in the west when he died. He the bar to a skirmish between opposing counsel, had not lived long enough to know that the world and leaves justice to be administered according to was a poor place to live, a hard place to suffer, the skill of the contestants,
a pleasant enough world to die out of. To him There is no more painful scene to an idle it seemed agony to go, and he longed for life and looker on, than the anxiety of some district at- its experiences. How blessed to go away thus, torneys to procure the conviction of criminals; and yet he knew it not. How blessed to die in and, indeed, it is at the first a painful eroployment the young spring of life, and yet he would have to the attorneys themselves; but the eager excite-lingered till the summer heats overpowered him, ment of professional labor soon removes all thought or the winter frosts chilled his very soul.
"And here am I, the mock and gaze of the ; Such was the responsibility which I now felt, crowd, waiting to hear the doom which is soon for the senior counsel had not yet seen the dreadto be pronounced, and which you lawyers are ed witness, and made up his mind on my brief postponing hour by hour, only to increase my description. It was decided in an instant, and pain. Let it be over at once and forever, I beg the first blow to be struck was devised by the juof you. Let—"
nior counsel, who had indeed formed the idea of is Mr. Phillips—one moment, if you please." | this plan of defense from the fact that he had
I hastened to the counsel for the defense, who learned a few moments before that young Forster were calling, and found them deep in consulta- was that day twenty-one years of age. tion about a proposition suddenly started. The In five minutes I had prepared a brief but comobject of the elder Forster in convicting his son prehensive last will and testament for the prisonof murder was to my mind very clear. He had er to execute, giving his entire fortune to Mary doubtless expected to inherit the really splendid Wilson and her heirs. We begged the indullanded estates of Judge Dusenberry, and the gence of the court a moment, while it was duly motive appeared by no means insufficient, when executed, and then announced our readiness to the enmity and hatred which had existed for years proceed. between him and his wife and son is taken into It was strange that Stephen Forster the elder consideration. The testimony for the prosecu- had never thought of this. It afterward appeared tion was now all in, excepting only the clinch- that he had made an error of an entire year in his ing evidence, namely, that of Stephen Forster son's age, and had not dreamed of his being able the father, which, on close examination, proved to devise real estate within a twelvemonth. to be the sole evidence which connected his son As Forster took the stand at the opening of with the poisoning. The proofs thus far had court after the recess, a cloud came up and obbeen complete, to the effect that Mrs. Forster had scured the setting sun, while the low muttering been poisoned and was dead, but no idea was of distant thunder foretold a coming storm. I did given that her son had committed the deed, ex- not notice the face of the senior counsel of the cept in the fact that he had purchased the article prisoner when the district-attorney commenced in the city shortly before the death ; but this was his examination, and when my attention was first relieved by the circumstance that he had pur- called to it, I was appalled at the expression which chased other articles for chemical experiments at I saw coming over it. Slowly, steadily, it grew the same time, and had several times, at least pale, fierce, and calm. There was a fixed stare twice previously, purchased the same poisonous into the eyes of the witness, which made him un
easy, and he averted his gaze. Otherwise ForIt was therefore with no small degree of risk, ster was cold and firm. But my associate followed and yet with a cool and well-advised professional him whichever way he turned, with a fixed icy determination, that the counsel engaged for the gaze that might have frozen him with horror had defense determined to direct all their force toward he but caught it. breaking down the evidence of the elder Forster, He related his story, with enough apparent reand abandoning all other chances. It was, in luctance to give an idea of his suffering; and point of fact, a new idea, suggested by the junior some, indeed all, pitied the broken-down man so counsel at this stage of the case, and involved the soon to be childless and desolate. They did not abandonment of the previously adopted theory of know the fiend. defense, which had been that the harassed and At length came the cross-examination, which weary wife had committed suicide. The moment was to have been conducted by myself. But the of time in which this consultation took place may senior laid his hand on my arm, and turning to well afford to readers of this history an idea of him, I shrank from his now ghastly countenance. the momentous responsibilities under which law. He essayed to speak, but his lips emitted only yers labor. The cool face, the smiling counte- a husky sound; and he motioned to me that he nanco, the quick sparkling retorts, the gay, trifling would go on if I would pass the paper I held in manners, which lead the bystander to imagine that my hand to the witness. While I did so, he drank the lawyer is enjoying his contest as he might as a glass of water. game of chess or of billiards, often cover the When I passed the will of his son to Stephen deepest anxiety, the most fearful tremblings for Forster, he looked at it, swept his eyes over it, the fate of the client whose life hangs on the stared a moment in my face, lifted his eyes, and quickness or skill of that apparently thoughtless thought in silence. Through what tempestuintellect. I think there is no other consideration ous years did that fierce soul sweep back to the needed to convince men that the profession is one spring morning when his boy lay, a young babe, of most terrible labor and responsibility, than the in his young arms! How did he count themidea that in such a trial as this I am now describ- one by one-those years of bitterness, of hate, of ing there may be several moments when it is want-want of love, bitter poverty of affection, necessary to determine, again and again, what hatred, malice, and all manner of household annew theory of defense shall now be adopted, what guish, up to this last and blackest year in all the new plan of action devised, to save the life of a twenty-one! And when he counted the last man whose innocence is clear to the mind of the when the lawyer's intellect had done the child's lawyer, but whose guilt appears almost establish- problem in subtraction, and taken the year 18– ed to the minds of the jury.
from 18—, and found that the difference proved
that he had made the most awful error of his life "George, George !-Mother of God, is it you?" in his former count-he uttered a cry, a howl of " It is none other, Stephen Gordon. And I agony, that startled the silent court-room more thank that Holy Mother's Son that I was here in than the thunder crash which followed it. time to save you this last and most awful crime.”
" What paper is that?" demanded the district- “George-our mother?" attorney, furiously.
“Dead, thirty years ago!" "Merely a memorandum we have prepared to A deep groan and a gush of blood were the rehelp your case. We have made your witness sponse from the dying man. disinterested by giving his son's property to an. “And Lucy?" muttered he, as soon as he was other person."
able. The effect of the suggestion was instantaneous, “Her grave is by my mother." and was visible in the jury box as well as in the “And father-did they know " audience. A hundred curious eyes were turned “All-every thing-even to the weapon you toward the witness, whose countenance was ashy, used. He lived long enough to curse you, and and whose disturbed, bewildered air was precisely died with a curse half uttered on his tongue. what we had anticipated from the somewhat ex- ' “ It is enough. If there be no hell for others traordinary course we had adopted. The whole there is one for me." aim and object of his terrible occupation being re- “The apostate returns to the faith of his moved instantly and forever, he knew not what youth," said my associate, with a sneer that I course to pursue, and while he hesitated and per- never forgave. plexed himself with doubts and uncertainties, the “The apostate has no hope on earth, or in first question of my associate, asked in a low, heaven, or bell. I am dying, George. Forgive scarcely audible tone, reached his ear.
me! Forgive me!" “Where were you born ?”
“Stephen Gordon, my brother, murderer of A gloom almost like night suddenly came over my father, my mother, my sister, of your own the room, and the storm burst on the village with wife and son, destroyer of my own once bright furious violence. The witness sprang from his home, of my honor, of my all in life, if God forseat at the question, and then sinking back, peer- give you in the day of judgment I will not !” ed into the gloom with curious, anxious eyes, as “No, no! I have not yet murdered my son. if striving to connect that voice with the face of The rest is true, all true; but I can save him yet. some known person, but he made no reply. Let that be some atonement.”
"You were born in England,” continued the “Atonement for what? Can you call the same low voice.
dead from their graves in England? Can you The witness trembled from head to foot. I unsay one of the curses uttered by our dying could see it, and I observed it, overwhelmed as I father? Can you recall the agonizing tears of was with anxiety and astonishment at the course our mother and sister? Can you give me back of the leader.
my wife, my angel wife?" “ Your father's name was Gordon; he was a "She was an angel. She is an angel now." lawyer in London."
“Dead, too?" Still no reply.
“ Yes, dead. In a convent in France; peni“Your mother who was your mother ?" tent, peaceful, so they told me has she not told
For a moment there was profound silence. you so ?” Even the sharp district-attorney, in his surprise, “Me?" forgot to object, and the judge leaned eagerly for “I forgot. She visits me in dreams; but alward to watch the strange scene.
ways pale, and cold, and sad-eyed. Ah!-there, At length Stephen Forster rose from his chair, I see her now-calm and beautiful, but so cold, and gazed across the bar, and uttered a strange so bitterly cold. George, George, forgive me! sentence for a witness :
forgive me, brother - I am dying-let me not go “In God's name, who are you?
to hell all unforgiven. See, I have not an instant! The counselor rose to his feet, and stretched -quick, quick-speak—Holy Saviour, Mahis tall form to its utmost height. The look of Mary, mother-Jesu " fierceness that I had seen was still there, and a There was a flood of crimson on the bed, a flash of lightning illuminated the room, throwing struggle the dying man reached his arms out a wild light on his face, at which the witness in piteously toward his brother, who stood motionthe box uttered a cry of horror, and sank motion- less-there was a shudder, a sharp convulsive less to the floor, while torrents of blood gushed motion of the features; he crossed the forefingers from his nostrils and mouth.
of his hands as if in token of his dying belief, not The court was instantly adjourned to the next hope-and then—and then-what then? morning; and the astonished crowd separated, Why then I have sometimes fancied a scene in each relating his own fanciful idea of the cause the other world—a scene on the bank of the swift of this curious scene.
river that flows along the confines of heaven My companion walked out leaning on my arm, down to the abode of the damned. I have which scarcely supported him, hanging on it as fancied a mother, radiant and star-eyed, with he did.
| three most holy babes beside her, standing That night we stood together by the bed of serenely on that flower-clad bank, and I could Stephen Forster, now going fast by the dark road. see her start and shrink back from the dark fow