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from which she had just been drawn. And her cornelian necklace and brooch, long gold pendants, and glittering waist-buckle, might have afforded a moral lesson on the folly of unsuitable adornments to the young and thoughtless of her own sex, who place an undue importance on the acquisition of such baubles, and too often procure them by means in direct violation of the law of God.
These, together with the money in her purse, remaining untouched, afforded a convincing proof that no common ruffian had perpetrated the murder, else those articles of value would have been abstracted. Barak Johnson heard with a faltering heart this inference, proclaimed by every voice in the crowd beneath his window, and expected momentarily to hear himself denounced as the probable murderer. But when he saw the father and sister of his victim approaching to look upon the face of the dead, his feelings overpowered him. A cold thrill of horror ran through his veins, he became sick and faint, the chilly drops of agony rose on his shuddering flesh, the light forsook his eyes, and he sank down in a swoon, yet not so deep as to render him wholly insensible to what was passing beneath.
The name of Phillis Waters still rang in his guilty ears, mingled with words that were sometimes partially, sometimes wholly indistinct, like a confused, buzzing murmur, of which he strove in vain to catch the meaning, though his corporeal powers were suspended, and his gigantic frame reclined at its full length in lifeless immobility.
A fearful consciousness of the peril of his situation was present with him, which appeared to suggest the necessity of shaking off the torpor that inthralled him, when a loud abrupt knocking at his door, startling him with such terrors as guilt alone can experience, broke upon his fainting ear. Its immediate effect was to rouse him from his swoon, not by gradual progressive recovery, but with a sudden impetus, which'instantaneously restored suspended animation ; for he sprang at once upon his feet, and demanded in a loud, stern voice, the business of the intruder.
It was a summons to form one of the coroner's jury, then assembling to hold an inquest on the body of Phillis Waters.
“ Horror upon horror,” thought Barak Johnson ; "all is horror !"
Yet even in this there was matter for self-congratulation, since his being nominated to such an office afforded an indubitable proof that no shadow of suspicion had attached itself to him, and when he reflected how much his own security would be ensured by his accepting it he resolved, since he had already sacrificed so much to elude the dreadful penalty of the crime he had committed, that he would not now retreat, but armed himself with a front of iron, to go through the worse than fiery ordeal that awaited him.
But, oh! it required a heart as well as a front of iron, to unite with the rest of the jurors in examining the corpse of his victim. Nor could imagination conceive any torture more agonizing than that of being called upon to look, with unshrinking firmness, on the pale and distorted features,-fixed in the rigidity of their death convulsion, by the coldness of the waters into which he had plunged her,—of the woman whom he had madly loved, and barbarously murdered.
The morbid irritability occasioned by the repeated draughts of raw liquor which he had swallowed in the course of the preceding day, which had had the fatal effect of aggravating, to a paroxysm approaching to frenzy, the passion into which he had worked himself up during his last interview with the unfortunate girl, had subsided; and while he remembered how bitterly she had pleaded for ber life, the blackened marks of his murderous and relentless grasp on her fair throat—that throat whose graceful contour might have afforded a model for the chisel of a Baily, stared accusingly upon him, and seemed to upbraid him with the deed. Yet he forced himself to examine these minutely, and to affect calmness, as he joined with his fellow-jurors in reasoning on his own barbarous work, while his heart beat thick and fearfully with secret apprehension, lest the evidence to which his attention was called should prove such as to point the suspicions of the crime to himself, more particularly as he beheld among the witnesses the blind beggar with whom he had held the brief conference already recorded, beside the marl-pit.
It was in consequence of this person's representations that the pit had been searched, and the body of the murdered girl had been discovered.
There, too, were the heartstricken father, and the pale, tearful sister of his victim, who had been summoned in the first bitterness of their overwhelming calamity to identify the body of Phillis, and to render their testimony as to the time and circumstances of her going to the fair, in returning from which a fate so dreadful had overtaken her.
There also was William Parry, whose situation was more distressing than theirs, more critical than Barak Johnson's; for he had been dragged from the deathbed of his expiring aunt, and brought thither on suspicion of being the murderer of Phillis Waters. A mass of the most extraordinary circumstantial evidence that ever deceived a jury, pointed against him. He was the last person with whom the deceased had been seen. High words had passed between them on the evening previous to the murder, and on the night of the fair, at the house of her cousin, from which, after an angry altercation, he had used the authority of an affianced husband in withdrawing her, and she had never been seen after she quitted the town of Scrapeton in his company.
Sophy Cooper and her friends had been highly offended, at the undisguised contempt which he had expressed of the pursuits in which he found them engaged, and now they had a dreadful opportunity in gratifying their vindictive feelings in return; and the evidence they gave of his conduct on that eventful evening was such, as left little doubt on the minds of the coroner, and eleven of the jury, that he was guilty of the crime with which he was charged.
The young man with whom Phillis was dancing when William Parry entered the room, went so far as to depose, “ that he had observed to Sophy Cooper and the rest of the ladies, that he did not consider it was safe for Phillis to go with William Parry in the humour he then was; for his looks, manner, and the tones of his voice were furious, and indicative of malice.”
There was not only exaggeration, but absolute falsehood in this statement; nevertheless, it was corroborated by the evidence of Sophy
Cooper and her companions, and it made a great impression against the prisoner.
William Parry and Sarah were alike startled, at the unexpected but strong tide of coincidences, which appeared to attach the suspicion of the crime on him. Sarah's inward persuasion of his innocence availed nothing ; for her own testimony of having met him alone, and in a great state of excitement, in the marl-pit lane, at a time so completely corresponding with that at which the murder must have been committed, contributed more powerfully to corroborate the mass of evidence against him than any thing beside. It even had its weight with her. self; for as the appalling coincidence struck her attention, she smote her hands together, and turning suddenly to the prisoner, she exclaimed,
“Oh! William, William, have you indeed done this ?"
“No, Sarah, believe it not !” he replied, in a firm voice; "and if I die for it, my innocent blood will be on the head of the murderer, and will add to his condemnation in that dreadful day when the secrets of all hearts will be revealed.”
One circumstance was in Parry's favour. The blind witness was positive in his opinion, that he was not the person with whom he held parley by the side of the fatal pit; and when asked the reason for his conclusion, he replied,
“ The voice is different."
“ It never did yet,” returned the blind man ; "and I tell you to a certainty, that the prisoner is not the person with whom I talked by the marl-pit. The prisoner passed me on the road from Scrapeton. He was talking to a young woman. They were quarrelling. It appeared to be a lover's quarrel, and she was very aggravating in her speech; but they outwalked me, for I am slow and careful in my steps, being blind, as you see. Soon after I heard a woman's voice in distress. I thought it must be the same, and quickened my pace; but just before I reached the spot whence it proceeded, I heard a great splash, and knew by the sound that it was the plunge of a human body into deep water."
“How came you to know such a sound so well as to form that conclusion ?" asked the coroner.
“ Because," replied the witness, “I had once a sister who fell over a high bank into a mill-stream, and was drowned, no one being near her but myself, who could not give her aid ; and I shall never forget my feelings, when, in the midst of my darkness, I heard that plunge. It must now be near forty years ago, but it has never been absent from mine ear, and how could I be deceived when I heard again a sound like that? The murderer told me a rail had fallen into the water, but I knew it was false, before I tried the railing with my staff
, and found it all firm and fast. His voice was peculiar—it was harsh and loud, with a north-country burr, like a border-man. That of the prisoner is clear and pleasant, and he speaks singingly, like all the people about here, by which you may know a Suffolk person all over the world. I have travelled England through, over and over, and if forty people were present from forty different counties, I could tell you every
man's county by his speech, unless they were the high-bred gentry who go to London schools, and get mocked out of their native tongues till no one knows who they be or where they come from.”
A cold perspiration had bedewed Barak Johnson's forehead during the examination of the blind witness, whose accurate description of his voice caused every nerve in his gigantic frame to vibrate with a cold thrill of terror ; but so strong was the prejudice on the minds of his fellow-jurors, that William Parry was the murderer of Phillis Waters, that they declared themselves unanimous in that opinion, and directed Johnson, their foreman, to pronounce the verdict of “ Wilful Murder" against the unfortunate young man.
For a moment Barak Johnson recoiled with horror at the idea of suffering an innocent person to pay the dreadful penalty of his guilt. He demanded five minutes for consideration, and obtained a pause of additional agony, while he struggled between the witness of conscience, and the power of evil, in his benighted soul. But here temptation assailed the gloomy fanatic in one of its subtlest forms.
“ Have I not,” he mentally said, “ broken the law of God too deeply already to increase my own damnation by any additional act of guilt, to which self-preservation may now reluctantly compel me. I am abandoned of God, given up to mine own reprobate mind, as a vessel of wrath formed and fitted for destruction, and if I perish, I perish, for it must needs have been so.”
Thus communed the unhappy man within himself; and while, with strange self-delusion, he excused his crimes by denying the existence of free will, he exercised it in resisting the strivings of conscience, and making himself the instrument of those who, acting in ignorance, formed their judgment according to outward appearances, when, as foreman of the coroner's jury, he stood forth, and with his own lips, pronounced the verdict of "Wilful Murder against William Parry."
At the sound of the first syllable uttered by Barak Johnson, the blind witness started, and turned his sightless orbs upon his face, with a look that alarmed the conscious murderer with the idea that those large expressive eyes recognised him, through the thick darkness that clouded their visual powers. The inward principle of the immaterial mind, to which the sense of sight is a subservient organ, did indeed struggle to penetrate the film by which the exercise of its outward faculties were impeded, and prevented from corroborating the evidence of the ear, whose quick impulse it mysteriously but vainly obeyed, and before the verdict was fully pronounced, he exclaimed aloud,
“ The voice! the voice !"
“ Whose ?—whose ?” was the eager query of the excited spectators.
The blind witness laid his stick on the arm of the foreman of the jury, and briefly and impressively replied,
* Behold the man !"
“The hand of the Lord is against me!" exclaimed Barak Johnson, and he sunk down in a deep swoon.
Witnesses now appeared, to testify against him circumstances, before unregarded, but now that suspicion was pointed at him, assuming a fearful importance.
He had been seen lingering in the marl-pit lane, near the spot where the murder was committed, at various times that evening, by different people, to whom he was well known. Then there was the certainty that his bed had not been slept in that night, and he had been seen to return to his house at a very early hour in the morning. Lastly, some of the long fair hair of Phillis Waters was found entangled among the metal buttons of the coat which he had worn on that day, which had evidently been rent away during the desperate but ineffectual struggles of the unhappy girl, and had remained there, unobserved by the murderer, to afford the most conclusive evidence of his crime.
Barak Johnson was fully committed for trial, and finally suffered the awful sentence of the law. He acknowledged his guilt, and the train of circumstances which had led to it, but he sullenly intrenched himself behind the Antinomian doctrine of his creed, when urged to repentance of the crime; declaring that he had acted under the impulse of immutable destiny, and had done nothing but what had been decreed for him from the beginning of time; for his had been a lost soul, before its entrance upon its earthly pilgrimage. Some months after these melancholy events
, William Parry became the husband of Sarah Waters, with whom he enjoyed that calm domestic happiness, which no reasonable person could have expected to taste, as the husband of her beautiful but heartless sister.
M E M O RY.
BY THE LATE L. E. L.
Ou ! what is Memory but a gift,
Oh! tell me not that Memory