The Old Man in the Corner
XV. A TERRIBLE PLIGHT
"Little more than a fortnight after that, Edith Crawford was duly committed to stand her
trial before the High Court of Justiciary. She had pleaded 'Not Guilty' at the pleading diet,
and her defence was entrusted to Sir James Fenwick, one of the most eminent advocates
at the Criminal Bar.
"Strange to say," continued the man in the corner after a while, "public opinion from the
first went dead against the accused. The public is absolutely like a child, perfectly
irresponsible and wholly illogical; it argued that since Miss Crawford had been ready to
contract a marriage with a half-demented, deformed creature for the sake of his £100,000
she must have been equally ready to murder and rob an old lady for the sake of £50,000
worth of jewellery, without the encumbrance of so undesirable a husband.
"Perhaps the great sympathy aroused in the popular mind for David Graham had much to
do with this ill-feeling against the accused. David Graham had, by this cruel and
dastardly murder, lost the best--if not the only--friend he possessed. He had also lost at
one fell swoop the large fortune which Lady Donaldson had been about to assign to him.
"The deed of gift had never been signed, and the old lady's vast wealth, instead of
enriching her favourite nephew, was distributed--since she had made no will--amongst
her heirs-at-law. And now to crown this long chapter of sorrow David Graham saw the
girl he loved accused of the awful crime which had robbed him of friend and fortune.
"It was, therefore, with an unmistakable thrill of righteous satisfaction that Edinburgh
society saw this 'mercenary girl' in so terrible a plight.
"I was immensely interested in the case, and journeyed down to Edinburgh in order to get
a good view of the chief actors in the thrilling drama which was about to be unfolded
"I succeeded--I generally do--in securing one of the front seats among the audience, and
was already comfortably installed in my place in court when through the trap door I saw
the head of the prisoner emerge. She was very becomingly dressed in deep black, and, led
by two policemen, she took her place in the dock. Sir James Fenwick shook hands with
her very warmly, and I could almost hear him instilling words of comfort into her.
"The trial lasted six clear days, during which time more than forty persons were
examined for the prosecution, and as many for the defence. But the most interesting
witnesses were certainly the two doctors, the maid Tremlett, Campbell, the High Street
jeweller, and David Graham.
"There was, of course, a great deal of medical evidence to go through. Poor Lady
Donaldson had been found with a silk scarf tied tightly round her neck, her face showing
even to the inexperienced eye every symptom of strangulation.