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longer, for I took a direct course through | piny forests, which are impassable to any but foot-travellers. I spent the night at his house. In the morning a trivial circumstance unfortunately aroused my temper, which I have never subjected to good governance. During that instant of irritability, I made a remark at which my uncle conceived deep, and as it seemed, irreconcilable offense. He commanded me to leave his house, and even with a bitterness of tone and manner which I shall never forget, cursed my departing steps. Words cannot describe what I then felt. I, myself, though the events of that terrible period are indelibly imprinted upon my memory-I, myself, cannot now, as I recall that scene, recall also the convulsion of soul and body which attended it. I bounded from the house. That space which had occupied me two tedious days was now traversed in one-and so traversed that it seemed that the whole journey had filled no longer time than one throb of my pulse might have measured. Yet in that day what a deed was committed! My uncle denied me what he had promised, the means which alone I believed were needed to open for me the road to wealth, and fame, and power. Money -money, I wanted. Could not money be obtained otherwise than from my uncle? No good angel whispered that suggestion. "Some months passed away. father, Jessie, who was a frequent visitor at our house, happened one evening to be standing alone with me on the porch. He said to me, 'I am quite uneasy, Thomas, about my son Frederick. He went up the country a week ago to collect some money which was due me, and ought surely to have been back by this time. That road passes over a dreary region, and Walker's fate shows how easily murder may be perpetrated.
Oh, sir,' I replied, 'you have little cause for alarm. Depend upon it, the man who has committed one murder never can have the daring to commit another!' "He seemed to pay no attention to my remark, but continued, 'I wish I could send word to him not to travel alone on his way down.'
"We were on the porch at this time as I have told you, and casting my eye down the road I saw a blue-topped two-horse
wagon with which I was too well acquainted. There is Coward,' I said, on his way up; you can send word by him to Frederick.
"Never,' exclaimed Mr. Rosse, 'I would sooner trust the lamb to the keeping of the wolf, than confide the safety of my son to that man. If Fred now only had with him a devoted friend like you'These words were daggers; what else he said I knew not.
"Coward had fed his horses by the stable, and was walking restlessly around the house. I watched him closely, for it was too probable that my fate was in his hand. He walked into the orchard, and the cedar hedge concealed him from my view. I snatched a plate out of the kitchen and also went into the orchard to gather apples for supper! I saw him step over the well, indifferently, and without giving it any glance of recognition. This was a great relief. It was possible that, although he must have discovered the carpet-bag behind the chest while I slept, he might not have observed me hiding it afterwards. Coward had nearly reached the other side of the orchard before he noticed that I was following him. When he did so, he turned immediately and proceeded towards me. I was not prepared for this, and stupidly awaited him, without knowing what to do or say.
"He approached, and, after casting a stealthy glance around to be certain that one else was within hearing, inquired what I thought of Walker's murder.
"I was dreadfully startled, but had sufficient composure to answer, What should I think of it?'
He repeated the words after me, 'Yes, what should you think of it? The man's dead now, and so thousands of other folks have died. No man dies till his time comes, and I don't see what great odds it makes then whether he gets his death by knife or by fever.'
"You have seen this man Coward, Jessie, and I need not tell you that, with his tangled, snaky, jet-black hair, and his glowing eye, and hideous roughness of feature, he looks like a fiend. Most people dislike him--you no doubt dislike Lim; but I tell you that if hating him were a sign of innocence, no seraph in heaven would be purer than I. He was spread
66 6 "Do you ?' said I.
"Yes,' he rejoined, 'I know who did it; but it would not be right to tell on the poor fellow, would it ?'
"No,' said I, it would not be right.' "Besides,' added Coward, 'if betrayed, who knows but he might be able to pay the person back who should do it; he who has used a knife once can use it again, can't he?'
"Yes, that he can,' I exclaimed, in a loud, fierce tone. He was a little startled at this, and proposed that we should separate and go to the house. I assented. As he turned away, he said significantlyMum's the word, you know.'
"Yes,' I answered, Mum's the word.' "The account of this conversation, Jessie, must seem to you very incoherent, but the conversation itself was no less so. Indeed, I believe I have given it to you word for word.
"When I returned to the house, whom do you think I met there? Your brother. And not only had he returned, but he brought intelligence that my uncle had been taken very ill, and had expressed an urgent desire to see my father and me.
The whole family were at once thrown into the bustle of preparation. My father's age and feebleness required that we should go on horseback, even though it was thus rendered necessary to take the more circuitous route.
"Our first stopping-place was twentyfive miles distant, and notwithstanding we set out quite early in the day, we rode so slowly that sunset caught us when we had still some four miles to travel. We had reached a high ridge of red earth. Below,
a magnificent prospect was extended before us, and westwardly we could see the farm-houses dotting the mountain side. Since the fatal eighth of June, I have never enjoyed anything like tranquillity of mind except at that moment. The stillness of the dusky twilight, the vast expanse to the eastward, and the dreary yet solemn desolation that reigned immediately around, affected me with indescribable emotions. At that instant, I believe, I could even have prayed.
My father spoke: So this is the place where Walker was murdered.'
"I started, and a chill of horror struck through my breast. It was even so. There, to my left hand, was an old ruinous stable. Behind that stable the bloody corpse had been found, and yet the whole place seemed strange-so completely had passion blinded me when I last gazed upon that scene.
"In your other journey to your uncle's, you did not cross the ridge here, did you?' The inquiry was made by my father.
"No, sir,' I answered; 'I went up yonder, by the valley of the Coldstone Creek, which must be at least a mile south of this.' I did not tell what course I pursued on my return. Could I indeed, if I had tried, have traced out the path which I followed in that delirious flight? My faithless memory was able to recognize this spot, for a deed had been done which marked it too well, but what circumstance could recali any other spot? There was one such circumstance which I should have mentioned before; but it is not wonderful that I am unable to give a wellconnected account. I brought home (as I told you) the torn carpet-bag of Walker's, but I brought only that one, what then became of mine? I had tormented myself vainly in the effort to remember. There was a fine spring some miles west of the red ridge, immediately in the course which I pursued in going on foot to my uncle's; and out of it I then drunk. It is not impossible that I also took a draught from it on my return. In that case I might have omitted to take up my carpetwallet again. After much reflection I concluded to let things take their course. If the bag were found and recognized as mine, I could say that I had lost it, but
deemed it of too little value to merit inquiry. How easy it is, after committing a great crime, to reconcile one's conscience to smaller crimes! How easy to lie after doing murder! If I did not leave the bag at the spring, Coward must have picked it up on the road by the old Carter stable, and, doubtless, retains it in his hands, so as to preserve an overwhelming mass of evidence against me.
"It took us two days more to reach my uncle's, and when we got there the house was no longer his, but mine. The old man was dead and had made me his
"Since that time I have possessed riches; whether I have taken pleasure in them or not, you may judge. Metaphysicians and preachers, Jessie, have labored to show that the damned may be punished with no corporeal suffering, and yet may endure exquisite torment. I believe it. Any error that we commit, if found to be irreparable, may for an instant inflict upon us mental anguish more excruciating than the worst bodily pain. Instead of an error, suppose a crime like that by which I am now oppressed, and you have the intolerable anguish, not of a moment, but of eternity. To sever the thread of a human life is, in truth, to commit a mistake beyond repair! There is a circumstance, however, about this matter, Jessie, which I have yet reason enough left to perceive and wonder at. I have been religiously educated, Jessie; from childhood I have listened with reverential attention to the preaching of the gospel; and more than all, I have had before me the daily example of a pious parent. Would you not suppose that, whatever may have been the impulse under which I committed the act I did, my strongest feeling now would be remorse on account of the dreadful sin?
Yet, strange as it may appear, the fact is I am ready to tear away my hair, or to pluck out my eyes; not, however, because I have violated the commands of my Maker, but merely because I reproach myself with a blunder. I stand in dread of the penalty of human law, not of divine; my conscience is silent, while my rational faculties are loud in rebuke."
After Thomas Austin thus concluded his narrative, his companion and he continued their walk in silence. About ten
minutes had elapsed, when Austin said— 'So, you cannot wonder now, Jessie, that I desired to relieve you of my presence and my love. Imagine that I had deceived you, and we had been wedded. I know too well that, some time or other, a murderer must be discovered and dragged to an ignominious death; what would then become of his wife? Oh, the blow must kill her, it must kill her! That would be a murder indeed; then I should have had cause for remorse. But what may I not have done already in giving you this frightful account?"
Austin turned suddenly and gazed for the first time in her face, to read the impression which his words had made. He found her countenance very grave and thoughtful, yet it did not exhibit the overwhelming grief which he expected to see.
Jessie spoke, but not for the purpose of uttering vain exclamations. "You think this huckster, Coward, knows all about the killing of Walker, do you not?"
Certainly, I cannot doubt it."
"Have you met him since the day when that conversation in the orchard took place, and especially since your possession of your uncle's property?"
"Oh, yes, many times."
"Has he ever shown any disposition to extort money from you?"
"So far from it, that I think he rather assumes an air of timidity and obsequious
"You have said, Thomas, that you killed the drover; how did you do it ?"
Why, have you never heard, Jessie, that he was stabbed ?"
"What weapon did you do it with ?"
Austin seemed astounded at the composure with which she put these interrogatories, and it was some seconds before he answered: "The man was stabbed with
his own knife. Dick Smith found it lying by him, and his wife recognized it."
"On what part of his person did you find his knife?"
"Oh, in the breast-pocket of his coat, to be sure; who ever carried a dirk any where else?"
"But how did you get it from there whilst he was walking along?"
"I could not have done it while he was walking; he was knocked down before he was stabbed."
"What did you knock him down with?" | evinced great consternation. So intense
'I do not know."
"You do not know ?"
'I mean, I do not remember. I really believe I was half-delirious all that day.' Again they walked on in silence, though now they were proceeding in a homeward direction.
Austin at last became impatient. "Tell me, Jessie, what you think about it all? Spare me not, for you cannot speak worse of me than I deserve."
"Well, Thomas, I think the drover was killed by this man Coward."
"How can that be?" cried Austin; "did not I kill Walker ?"
"Circumstances certainly have led you to imagine that you killed him-but I believe it was Coward who really committed the act."
"But, Jessie, can you disbelieve my assertion; and is this such an excellent deed that I should seek to bear off the credit of it undeservedly? Or do you think I have been giving you a madman's rhapsody?"
"Dear Thomas, listen to me-you have yourself said that you returned from your uncle's in almost the unconsciousness of delirium. You cannot give any connected account of the events of that day; when you afterwards visited the spot where the man was killed, the whole scene appeared unfamiliar; you cannot tell me a single circumstance of the murder which is not also known to the coroner, to his jury, and to the whole county. On the other hand, Coward, who undoubtedly passed by the spot about the time of the murder, and who is a man of suspicious habits and bad reputation, exhibits the demeanor of a culprit who believes you to be acquainted with his guilt."
"Can you tell me, though," said Austin, "how I came to bring home Walker's carpet-bag instead of mine ?"
"There is indeed a mystery here," replied Jessie, "which I cannot as yet penetrate but this is what I will do, Thomas. In some way or other I will manage to see this Walter Coward when no third person is by, and if I charge him with the murder, I have not the least doubt that he will confess having done
was the affright exhibited in his face that even the firm nerves of his companion were shaken by the spectacle. The figure of the horror-stricken Sir Trevisan, after he had escaped from the den of Despair with a halter round his neck, is hardly an exaggerated representation of Austin's appearance at this moment. His cheeks were hollow and ghastly pale; his lip was pinched, and his chin sharpened, as of one in mortal sickness; his eyes were fixed and glaring and his whole shrunken body leaned forward in the agony of supplication.
"Oh, say nothing to him, Jessie !provoke him not or I am lost. Remember that my life hangs on the breath of his mouth. Oh, dear Jessie, dear Jessie, do have pity on me!"
Was this, thought Jessie, the stalwart, stout-hearted youth of a year ago? How great the change!
His nervous entreaties, many times reiterated, compelled her to promise the relinquishment of her scheme. They walked homewards. She was able to say little on the way, and would have yielded to the feeling which prompted her to say nothing, had not her loving heart forbade silence when it was possible that words might administer comfort and support.
Some weeks passed away-weeks of despondency and dread to Austin, of sad and anxious perplexity to Jessie. During that painful walk in the pines, a labyrinth seemed to spring up around her as if by magic. Her trusting nature had seized upon what she thought might be a clue to the fresh air without, but now as she each day revolved the narrative of Austin in her mind, doubts arose which she could not quell. If in truth the drover had been slain by his hand, (which she still hoped was only the dream of an excited fancy) she was confident that his head and heart had never assented to the act-that it was done in a delirium which took away both consciousness and responsibility. placing the matter even in this light, it was horrible to reflect that he, upon whom her heart rested all its affections, was stained with the blood of homicide.
The scene received still another change. Austin at the mention of this plan | Mike Burrows, a free black lad of sixteen,
had been detected with a pocket-book which was known to have belonged to Walker. This boy had very frequently been employed by the drover to assist him in driving his beeves. He accompanied him on his last, fatal trip, but in returning home had started in advance of his master. Mike accounted for his possession of the pocket-book by saying that Mr. Walker gave it to him before they separated to come back. The boy admitted that he had kept it concealed for more than a year, but earnestly protested that he did so only from an apprehension of being suspected of theft. His story was not believed. No storekeeper could be found in the town who recollected having sold Walker a pocket-book about that time, and it was very improbable that he would have given away his old one without supplying its place with another. Many more suspicious facts were discovered, which together made up a strong chain of circumstantial evidence. He was arrested; the grand jury found a true bill against him; and so generally was the community satisfied of his guilt, that there was little doubt what the issue of his trial must be.
This intelligence made Austin in some measure himself again. The unmanly dread which for a time had stifled every generous sentiment, was now shaken off. He could not see the penalty of his own act visited upon another. His resolution was formed; he would deliver himself up to justice and confess his crime. Jessie Rosse in vain remonstrated. His determination, he said, restored him the tranquillity of which he had long been deprived, and his purpose was fixed to adhere to it. She urged the possibility that the murder was not committed by him.
He listened for a while with an air of incredulity, and then replied-" Well, dear Jessie, suppose that I am innocent; legal investigation cannot fail to make the fact evident."
"Does it," said she, "make poor Mike Burrows' innocence evident? No, Thomas, your own confession will be regarded as establishing your guilt. You think it sinful that any other person should be put to death unjustly;-can you be justifiable in causing your own execution for a crime which you have not committed?"
Austin was staggered for an instant, but his answer was firm and decided— "This poor boy is certainly innocent; it is too probable that I am not: hence it is just and right to save his life at the expense of my own.
"At all events," said his companion, 'you can now have no objection to my seeing Walter Coward."
"It will be useless," replied Austin, "but I care not for your seeing him. Yet stay, if he should possibly be guilty of Walker's death, his desperation at being discovered might provoke him to further bloodshed-your life may be taken by the ruffian. The thought is horrible. Jessie, you must not see him."
"But, Thomas, you are confident that you yourself slew the man."
Austin here nodded assent.
She continued: "May it not be that if he saw you do it, he could give important testimony to establish the fact that you did it in the frenzy of delirium? Do not, I pray you, forbid me to see him--I will guard against any such consequence as you' apprehend."
Austin gave a reluctant consent, promising besides not to deliver himself up without further consultation with her.
Some days of great distress for the poor girl now ensued. The marketman made his usual trips up and down the road, but she felt an extreme reluctance to have the interview which she had so long meditated. On that interview her last hope depended. If it failed to answer her expectations (and her confidence that it would daily diminished) the fate of Thomas Austin was sealed. The man was probably a hardened, wary villain. The conscience upon which she sought to operate might have been seared into callousness by a long succession of crimes, and what chance was there that she, a weak timid girl, would be able to subdue the iron energies of such a soul? Of Austin, it was possible that Coward might stand in dread, but how could she make him tremble?
A plan occurred to her. She alternately adopted and rejected it a hundred times: finally, her mind was fully made up to try it. It was attended with much difficulty, and by many circumstances which might well daunt a delicately nurtured female more than the dif