Chapter 59751444

See chapter in newspaper

Chapter NumberXVI.
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article59751444
Full Date1883-10-13
Page Number0
Corrections0
Word Count2622
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleMercury and Weekly Courier (Vic. : 1878 - 1903)
Trove TitleA Golden Dawn
article text

.A 'GOLDEN DAWN. [IAMILY HERALD1 CHAPTER XVI. Hyacinth -Vane's trial;..while- it lasted, occupied the attention of all England; there had been no such sen sation for years. There had been cases -of poisoning and horrible murders, but nothing like this-a young and beauti ful girl in her jealousy had slain the woman she believed to be her rival. It was a trial that had been expected for many months ; but the prisoner had been seriously ill, and it had been delayed until she was well enough to appear at the bar of justice. The March Asizes at Ulverston were the general subject of conversa tion ; everyone was on the alert. The grand jury found a true bill, and Hya-' cinth Vane was to be tried for her life for the wilful murder of Lady Fraser. Hyacinth's father was'dead,'and, but for Alan, she would have been alone in the world. He would have lavished his whole wealth in her defence. He employed the cleverest and most elo quent counsel ; he left no stone un turned ; he wore himself to a shadow in his efforts-but circumstantial evi dence was too strong for him. The day of the trial came, and from all parts of England people went to see the herione of the Dene Hall tragedy. There had been nothing like the excite ment for years. The evidence against the prisoner was strong. Ladies of unimpeachable veracity came forward and said that they had heard the prisoner threaten that she would slay the deceased if she took her lover from her; and those words, spoken by the girl in the mad jealousy, meaning nothing then, had a very different and far more horrible sound when repeated in a court of justice. She had been heard to threaten Lady Fraser. A dozen wit nesses could sware to the ill-feeling there was between' the two. On the night of the murder they had quarrelled, Hyacinth had been heard to say that she would kill her rival if she took her lover from her. It was next proved that after those few sharp words Hya cinth left the ballroom with the blue and white shawl round her shoulders; the same shawl was found clenched in dead woman's hand, and fastened to it was one of the blue corn-flowers Miss Vane had worn. -The evidence was strong; no one else had even a faint dislike to the hapless lady. - The crime had not been com mitted for booty; her jewelry was lay ing about, but not even a ring had been touched. There was no possible motive to be assigned save jealously; there was no one jealous but Hyacinth Vane. The evidence as to the shawl found in the murdered woman'4 hands proved that Hyacinth Vane must have been with her when she died; therefore she must have killed her. So argued the prosecution; so thought the jury; and in defence what was there to be said ? Most eloquent appeals were made by the clever coun sel employed. They spoke of the prisoner's youth and beauty ; they tried to show how impossible it was that a girl so young, so fragile, so weak could have been guilty of so gross a crime. They made the most of one point-the absence of a weapon ; but from the first it was evident that the trial was going against her. Perhaps her youth and beauty, instead of plead ing for her, were against her. The jury had to steel themselves. The evidence had told against her ; one could read it in the faces of the jurymen, which grew graver and sad der-in the face of the judge, which was sorrowful with a great sorrow-in the weeping eyes of women and the bent brows of stern men. The time came when the short sun shine of the March day was over, and a dull, yellow light, filled the court- when thejury went out to consider their verdict, and the prisoner, white and cold as death, was led from the dock. The jury were absent for more than an hour, and when they returned it was to a scene no one ever forgot. Through the large windows could be seen the darkening sky, and the hoarse murmur of the crowd surrounding the court could be plainly heard. Tier after tier of eager faces was lifted, all eyes were bent in one direction. The gas had been lighted, and threw a curious livid hue on the hundreds of assembled faces. ' The one object of intetest was the tall, slender figure, of the young girl. She stood quite erect, her hands clasped, her fair, sweet face, white as snow, her blue eyes lowered, and drenched with tears, her lips closed like the bud of a white flower-surely the most pitiful figure ever seen on earth. Women told each other afterwards of the brave, young lover, who would not leave her, who watched every movement of the white hands, every expression of the sweet, white face, who listened attentively to every word for and against her, who sent little notes to her counsel, and looked as though he could annihilate every wit ness whose evidence told ever so slightly against her. The sweet face grew even whiter when the jury returned, the girl's hands trembled, her blue eyes turned with a wistful look to the Squire's handsome face. "How say you, gentlemen of the jury-do you find the prisoner guilty, or not guilty ?" There was a moment's silence ; one might have heard a pin drop; in the whole of that crowded court there was :not a sound. "Guilty," was the word that fell I like a death-knell-and the eager ex pectation gave way to a murmur of dismay. "Innocent, I say, and I will prove I it," cried the young Squire. And l looking at his troubled face, the Judge refrained from rebuke. He passed sen- I tence of death on her, while women wept and men shuddered. Death for c that fair, young girl, with the angelic a face, death for that fair, delicate body, a it was too t'rrible. t It was over at last. The warders t carried the prisoner away, as one al- L ready senseless or dead. No one in- r terf~red when the lover who loved her t to well bent down as she was carried I past him rnsd kissed the sweet silent e

face, no one rebuked him-there was deepest pity for him. As the audience broke up, different groups discussed the verdict. Slowly enough they gave their opinions-she must be guilty ; no one else could have t done it, yet how angelic she looked, and how dearly the Squire loved her. Slowly the miserable March day ended; and the next day it was known t all over the country that Hyacinth Vane had been found guilty and sen tenced to death. A petition was drawn up and numerously signed, praying that, be cause she was so young, and the evi dence against her all circumstantial, the sentence might be commuted; but the Home Secretary, who had not seen the fair face, and the blue eyes drowned in tears, saw no cause for interference, and the law was to take its course. What those days spent in the dreary solitude of the condemned cell were, for the hapless girl, no one ever knew. The only grace that she obtained was permission from the Governor to have pens, inks, and paper. She wrote all that she thought and felt. She kept those papers until she died; and she called them- A DREAM OF THE SCAFFOLD. Some one has been into my cell and tells me that I may have pens and ink, that I may write all I think and feel ; and my thoughts go first of all to my home. There was a large bed of white hya cinths in the dear old garden at home ; they were my mother's pride. When any one came to see her in the warm beautiful spring-time, she would say to them, " Have you seen my hyacinths ?" and then show them with such gentle pride. When she lay dying, with the light of the western sun on her face, they lay me in her arms. She could not see me'for the mist before her eyes. " You would like to kiss the baby," those about her said; and the sweet soul smiled, and would not tell them that the light had gone from her eyes. She felt with her white dying hand for the little face, and then said, with a smile " My dear little baby ! Francis, I should like her to be called 'Hyacinth,' after my favorite flowers." My father promised that it should be so, and I was named Hyacinth Vane. Yes, I-Hyacinth Vane, condemned to dye to-morrow-I Was a little baby once, with my golden head nestling on my mother's breast, with my soft pink cheek warmed by my mother's dying kiss. I am to die to-morrow. To die ! Oh, Heaven, what do the words mean? I raise my hands and look at them; they are white and warm. The warm blood causes through them. Is it pos sible that to-morrow they will be whiter still-cold and motionless- How can I die to-morrow, when to-day I am full of warm life ? The sun rises in the east, and touches the left side of the wall of my cell, at night it touches the right. Now it is between the two.. The golden sunlight creeps so slowly along the wall. When it comes round here to morrow I shall be dead. Oh, stop, golden sun, while I think what that means I I shall be dead-my eyes will see no more, my eyes will be closed, my lips dumb. I shall lie cold and still; but where shall I be-the "1" who thinks, speaks, feels, and suffers ? A cold, white body, will be somewhere within the prison walls, but that will not be I. I am to die to-morrow. I am nine teen years old-a girl, young and innocent, lying in Ulverston Gaol, con demned to death-found guilty of murder, and sentenced to be hung by the neck until I am dead. I remember the crowded court, the sea of faces, the hum of voices, the glare of the sun, stirring of the vast crowd, and the deadly silence that reigned while the Judge put on that terrible cap, and said "hung by the neck until you are dead; and may the Lord have mercy on your soul I" There was a stir, an excitement. One lady, who had watched the trial intently, suddenly gave an hysterical cry- "She is so young! Is there no mercy for her ?" I heard murmurs all round me-I saw tears on many faces; but I did not think of myself. It was to me as though another girl stood in the dock and I was so sorry for her. My mind dwelt on those words-" May the Lord have mercy on your soul." If those wise and learned men wanted me to save my soul, why do they huirry me out of the world ?. Why not let me live to do it ? Slowly the golden light is changing on the wall; when it reaches the end of the window, the sun will set when it sets to-morrow night, I shall be beyond it. I kneel by the side of the little pallet, and I pray that my young mother may never know that her white Hyacinth was accused of murder. SSlowly the sun-rays are creeping along before the terrible darkness of night comes-the darkness that for me knows no second dawn. Let me describe what my cell is like. It is a square, cold, bare room, all white; yet it seems to me that the very walls should be black with sighs. The window is very small, very nar. row. When I stand on the bed, I can see just one piece of blue sky. There are a chair, and a white deal.table. *This is the condemned cell at Ulver ston Gaol. Strange tragedies have paised here, unhappy women have moaned their lives away, frantic wretches have knelt and clutched the hands of the chaplain and the warders. Soulless, saddened, brutal men have stupefied themselves with despair, and have died without a word, cowards have shrieked and raved, good men have prayed, while I Strange stories are told of the last night spent by those condemned to die on the morrow. Sometimes a stupor of despair comes over the criminal--a stupor which nothing can rouse him- J and he dies; or, bewildered, a frantic madness seizes him. Men who have to die at eight in the morning haveS been known in a paroxysm of this mad ness to almost kill the man who watched them. In this cell due precaution has been taken; there is a portion of it en closed within, an: iron railing, which

has no outlet into the celL If the warder wants to go near the prisoner, he must go out of his own door and re enter the cell by the door that belongs to it. The railed off portion looks like an immense iron cage. The warder's bed is inside it. I have heard of frantic men clutch ing those bars with shrieks that have made the blood run cold in the veins 6f those who heard. I shall try to die calmly ; but I know that I shall be most terribly afraid. Faster now and faster the light creeps along the wall. Oh for one face to smile on me, for one hand to .touch me, for one word of comfort ! JI climb to the window and watch the blue sky. What mystery lies- beyond it? There is just a breath of the sweet summer air. I lay my tired head against the cold, stone wall, and shut my eyes; then--ah, then 1 am'in the old garden at home, where the roses are growing, and sweet old-fashioned flowers are full of perfume. The blossoms fall from the lime-trees, the bees are busy with the carnations, the butterflies woo the lilies, the golden sunlight lies over all. A bird with bright eyes and smooth plumage sings on a bough of white pear blossom. Oh, dear and gracious Heaven, how fair it is, this warm, sunlit, fragrant world. I watch the swallows on the eaves; I watch the blue and white pigeons circle in the air. My heart grows light and gay with all this loveliness around me; yet there is a feeling as of some impending dread. I hear the woodpigeons and the shout of children at play. I can see the gray church spire, and a voice calls--" Hyacinth, where are you ?" "I am here, father," I answer in my dream, and I see my father walk down the broad path bor dered by white lillies. A sudden sense of security and freedom from all danger warms my heart. I throw my arms round him, and then, with a deadly chill, with a terrible horror, with mortal dread, with keenest anguish, I awake. Ah, dear Heaven, it was but a dream ! I am miles away from the garden at home, and I have looked my last on my father's face. It was only a dream. My head lay on the stone wall, one sunbeam touched my face; yet so vivid had been the dream that the odour of the lilies seemed to be around me. (To be continued.)