The Dream Doctor
23. The Death House
In the early forenoon, we were on our way by train "up the river" to Sing Sing, where, at
the station, a line of old-fashioned cabs and red-faced cabbies greeted us, for the town
itself is hilly.
The house to which we had been directed was on the hill, and from its windows one
could look down on the barracks-like pile of stone with the evil little black-barred slits of
windows, below and perhaps a quarter of a mile away.
There was no need to be told what it was. Its very atmosphere breathed the word
"prison." Even the ugly clutter of tall- chimneyed workshops did not destroy it. Every
stone, every grill, every glint of a sentry's rifle spelt "prison."
Mrs. Godwin was a pale, slight little woman, in whose face shone an indomitable spirit,
unconquered even by the slow torture of her lonely vigil. Except for such few hours that
she had to engage in her simple household duties, with now and then a short walk in the
country, she was always watching that bleak stone house of atonement.
Yet, though her spirit was unconquered, it needed no physician to tell one that the
dimming of the lights at the prison on the morning set for the execution would fill two
graves instead of one. For she had come to know that this sudden dimming of the corridor
lights, and then their almost as sudden flaring-up, had a terrible meaning, well known to
the men inside. Hers was no less an agony than that of the men in the curtained cells,
since she had learned that when the lights grow dim at dawn at Sing Sing, it means that
the electric power has been borrowed for just that little while to send a body straining
against the straps of the electric chair, snuffing out the life of a man.
To-day she had evidently been watching in both directions, watching eagerly the
carriages as they climbed the hill, as well as in the direction of the prison.
"How can I ever thank you, Professor Kennedy," she greeted us at the door, keeping back
with difficulty the tears that showed how much it meant to have any one interest himself
in her husband's case.
There was that gentleness about Mrs. Godwin that comes only to those who have suffered
"It has been a long fight," she began, as we talked in her modest little sitting-room, into
which the sun streamed brightly with no thought of the cold shadows in the grim building
below. "Oh, and such a hard, heartbreaking fight! Often it seems as if we had exhausted
every means at our disposal, and yet we shall never give up. Why cannot we make the
world see our case as we see it? Everything seems to have conspired against us--and yet I
cannot, I will not believe that the law and the science that have condemned him are the
last words in law and science."