The Legacy of Cain HTML version
7. The Murderess Consults The Authorities
There was a considerate side to my friend's character, which showed itself when the
warder had left us.
He was especially anxious to be careful of what he said to a woman in the Prisoner's
terrible situation; especially in the event of her having been really subjected to the
influence of religious belief. On the Minister's own authority, I declared that there was
every reason to adopt this conclusion; and in support of what I had said I showed him the
confession. It only contained a few lines, acknowledging that she had committed the
murder and that she deserved her sentence. "From the planning of the crime to the
commission of the crime, I was in my right senses throughout. I knew what I was doing."
With that remarkable disavowal of the defense set up by her advocate, the confession
My colleague read the paper, and handed it back to me without making any remark. I
asked if he suspected the Prisoner of feigning conversion to please the Minister.
"She shall not discover it," he answered, gravely, "if I do."
It would not be true to say that the Doctor's obstinacy had shaken my belief in the good
result of the Minister's interference. I may, however, acknowledge that I felt some
misgivings, which were not dispelled when I found myself in the presence of the
I had expected to see her employed in reading the Bible. The good book was closed and
was not even placed within her reach. The occupation to which she was devoting herself
astonished and repelled me.
Some carelessness on the part of the attendant had left on the table the writing materials
that had been needed for her confession. She was using them now--when death on the
scaffold was literally within a few hours of her--to sketch a portrait of the female warder,
who was on the watch! The Doctor and I looked at each other; and now the sincerity of
her repentance was something that I began to question, too.
She laid down the pen, and proceeded quietly to explain herself.
"Even the little time that is left to me proves to be a weary time to get through," she said.
"I am making a last use of the talent for drawing and catching a likeness, which has been
one of my gifts since I was a girl. You look as if you didn't approve of such employment
as this for a woman who is going to be hanged. Well, sir, I have no doubt you are right."
She paused, and tore up the portrait. "If I have misbehaved myself," she resumed, "I
make amends. To find you in an indulgent frame of mind is of importance to me just
now. I have a favor to ask of you. May the warder leave the cell for a few minutes?"