21. In The Court Room
About this time, the restless pacing of the judge in his study at nights became
more frequent and lasted longer. In vain Reuther played her most cheerful airs
and sang her sweetest songs, the monotonous tramp kept up with a regularity
nothing could break.
"He's worried by the big case now being tried before him," Deborah would say,
when Reuther's eyes grew wide and misty in her sympathetic trouble. And there
was no improbability in the plea, for it was a case of much moment, and of great
local interest. A man was on trial for his life and the circumstances of the case
were such that the feeling called forth was unusually bitter; so much so, indeed,
that every word uttered by the counsel and every decision made by the judge
were discussed from one end of the county to the other, and in Shelby, if
nowhere else, took precedence of all other topics, though it was a Presidential
year and party sympathies ran high.
The more thoughtful spirits were inclined to believe in the innocence of the
prisoner; but the lower elements of the town, moved by class prejudice, were
bitterly antagonistic to his cause and loud for his conviction.
Did the judge realise his position and the effect made upon the populace by his
very evident leaning towards this dissipated but well-connected young man
accused of a crime so brutal, that he must either have been the sport of most
malicious circumstances, or a degenerate of the worst type. The time of Judge
Ostrander's office was nearly up, and his future continuance on the bench might
very easily depend upon his attitude at the present hearing. Yet HE, without
apparent recognition of this fact, showed without any hesitancy or possibly
without self-consciousness, the sympathy he felt for the man at the bar, and ruled
accordingly almost without variation.
No wonder he paced the floor as the proceedings drew towards its close and the
inevitable hour approached when a verdict must be rendered. Mrs. Scoville,
reading his heart by the light of her recent discoveries, understood as nobody
else, the workings of his conscience and the passion of sympathy which this
unhappy father must have for misguided youth. She began to fear for his health
and count the days till this ordeal was over.
In other regards, quiet had come to them all and less tempestuous fears. Could
the judge but weather the possible conviction of this man and restrain himself
from a disclosure of his own suffering, more cheerful days might be in store for
them, for no further missives were to be seen on the lawn, nor had anything
occurred for days to recall to Deborah's mind the move she had made towards
re-establishing her husband's innocence.
A week passed, and the community was all agog, in anticipation of the judge's
charge in the case just mentioned. It was to be given at noon, and Mrs. Scoville,
conscious that he had not slept an hour the night before (having crept down more
than once to listen if his step had ceased), approached him as he prepared to
leave the house for the court room, and anxiously asked if he were quite well.
"Oh, yes, I'm well," he responded sharply, looking about for Reuther.