Job Throckmorton’s Trial: The Tragedy

The next morning I arose at break of day and hastened to the jail, to be with Uncle Job to comfort him in some measure, if that were possible, before going to the place of trial. Afterward, seated beside him in the crowded courtroom, I looked about, to see Miss Betty a few feet away, her eyes red and swollen, as if she had grieved much and slept but little. All the fun was clean gone out of the poor thing, and in its place nothing but sorrow and deep anxiety. Her face, too, always so rosy and smiling, was now pale and drawn, giving her the look of being much older than she was. Meeting my gaze, she smiled upon me, as if in gratitude for my being there. Constance sat beside her, and when I caught her eye her face lighted, and this I knew to comfort me and give me courage to abide the end, whatever it might be. Except these two and Setti, who sat next to Constance, no friendly look met mine. Surely, I thought, some of our friends might have come, or was our cause so desperate that every one stayed away to hide their grief at the end they so clearly foresaw?
Uncle Job bore himself like the fine gentleman he was, neither courting nor shunning the eye of any one when he entered the room. Bowing politely to those who recognized him, he passed others who avoided acquaintanceship with the grace of unconsciousness that only well-bred people possess. This happening led me to believe then and this belief has only been strengthened by time, that no good man or woman ever can refuse to recognize another whom they by chance know, however humble or obscure, unless such person has been convicted of some crime that shames our morals. Only the smaller parasites and hangers-on of social life, I am assured, can commit such an offense against good manners. Uncle Job, however, did not appear cast down by what he saw, though craving kindly sympathy and being a man who would have freely offered it under like circumstances.
Moth sat near by, looking pinched and meaner than ever, I thought, though his appearance was always inferior to that of other men. The cunning look he gave me from out his deep-set eyes when I glanced his way I pretended not to see, so greatly did I loathe the man. Looking beyond to the jury, I could not make them out, unless, indeed, they had the air of expecting a treat, for which pay was to be forthcoming, rather than having a duty to perform. Being men tanned in the sun and simple of habit, however, I could not tell. Mr. Promb, Uncle Job’s lawyer, sat beside Moth, and suffered greatly, I thought, in comparison with that saffron-faced and eager-eyed man. Otherwise he was wholesome to look upon, and without doubt much the better man of the two. If Uncle Job could but have had Mr. Lincoln to plead his cause, I mourned, as we sat waiting, there would then be no need to borrow trouble. His innocence would be made clear as noonday to every one by the honesty and God-like persuasiveness of his advocate. Alas! neither he nor any other fit person for occasion so great could be had, and Uncle Job must, perforce, suffer whatever fate befell him.
Mr. Seymour had thought it greatly in Uncle Job’s favor that the trial was to be before Judge Douglas, a rising man, already much spoken of in the state because of the brilliancy of his mind and his vast comprehension of the world and its affairs. This truly great man was, at the time of which I speak, just beginning the wonderful career that for many years made him a power in the land and known of men far and near, all finally to culminate in his strivings after the presidency with Mr. Lincoln and his death at an early day thereafter. Of his greatness, however, soon to be proven in the Senate and elsewhere, only the more discerning had then, any inkling.[*]
[*] The Statesman Gilbert Holmes here refers to was Stephen A. Douglas, called “The Little Giant” because of his sturdy form and the strength of his intellect. Judge Douglas was afterward for many years United States Senator from Illinois, and prominent in the politics of our country immediately preceding the great Civil War. In 1860 he was a candidate for President with Lincoln and Breckenridge, and upon the opening of the war, in 1861, generously came forward and offered Mr. Lincoln his support and that of his adherents. This act of unsolicited patriotism proved of incalculable benefit then and afterward to the President and the Union.—THE AUTHOR.
With the arrival of the hour set apart, the clerk arose and called the trial, and loudly, as if the matter were unexpected and notice now given for the first time. No sooner did he cease and the prisoner had answered “Not guilty,” than Moth arose, with great show of deference to the judge and jury.
“May it please the honorable court and this intelligent jury,” he went on, “I appear here on behalf of the people to aid in the punishment of a monstrous crime—a crime conceived in cunning and lust of wealth by one who before stood high in the estimation of many good men. You will notice I do not say all good men, and in this qualification I speak advisedly. Many have never believed the prisoner honest; I never have, and for good reason. He is young, of aspiring nature, of unknown antecedents, and greedy of preferment and gain. This latter some of you may have known before, but it is well to again call it to your attention. His downcast look and the lean and covetous lines about his face tell a story of duplicity and cunning no intelligent man, least of all a jury so circumspect as this, can mistake,” and Moth looked with lowering eyes upon Uncle Job, whose countenance, truth to say, was neither lowering nor covetous, but open and manly as one could wish. Then turning to the jury, he cried, waving his hand: “I do not ask you to believe me. Look for yourselves, gentlemen.”
“I object to this line of procedure, your honor, in advance of the evidence,” Mr. Promb broke in, with considerable spirit, “as being likely to prejudice the case of my client, and wrongfully.”
“The attorney for the state will confine himself to the line of evidence he proposes to present. The jury may properly be left to form their own opinion of the prisoner’s personal appearance,” Judge Douglas responded, with some severity.
“Very well, your honor; but it is impossible to prejudice a case so plain to all men as this will be made to appear further on. Restricting myself, however, as you justly observe, we shall prove all that I have intimated and more. We will prove that a sum of money, great enough to tempt the cupidity of a weak man, such as the prisoner at the bar, was left in his care, and that taking advantage of the confidence reposed in him, he deliberately and feloniously and with malice aforethought made away with it, to his own advantage and the detriment of his patron and the good morals of society. All this we will prove, may it please your honor and the honorable jury.”
When Moth concluded, Mr. Promb arose, but only to excuse himself from addressing the court at this stage of the proceedings. Whereupon Moth sprang to his feet again and asked that Mr. Henry Seymour, a friend of the prisoner, be sworn. When thus called, Mr. Seymour, who sat some way off, arose and made his way to the witness-stand, all eyes turned expectantly upon him, as if he, too, might possibly be guilty, being a friend of the accused. Passing Uncle Job, the latter smiled upon him as if in assurance of unalterable good will, whatever his testimony might be. When Mr. Seymour had been sworn, Moth proceeded:
“Were you present in the office of Throckmorton & Rathe on the evening when the sum of money stolen, amounting to about ten thousand dollars, was intrusted to the personal care of Job Throckmorton for safe-keeping over night?”
“I was.”
“Did the said Throckmorton receive the money?”
“He did.”
“Did he not volunteer to perform this service without solicitation from anyone? Nay, did he not insist upon assuming the care of the money when Mr. Rathe asked to be allowed to perform the duty?” Moth went on.
“I do not understand that Rathe did more than volunteer to take charge of the money.”
“Answer my question, yes or no. Did not the prisoner insist upon remaining at the office to guard the money?”
Upon this the witness turned to the judge, as if seeking guidance, and the latter nodding assent, Mr. Seymour answered, but with manifest reluctance, it was plain:
“He did.”
“Afterward, on the following morning, when the money had been stolen, what reason did Throckmorton give for its loss? Did he not claim he had been drugged?” Moth asked, looking toward the jury rather than at the witness.
“He did; and what he claimed I verily believe,” Mr. Seymour answered, with great promptness.
“I did not ask you what you believed; it is of no consequence, either here or elsewhere. The prisoner lives with you, I understand, and pays you for his board and lodging, and naturally, and because of this, you would believe anything he said,” Moth answered, addressing the jury.
“I call on the court to protect me from the insinuations of this mountebank,” Mr. Seymour cried, very red in the face, turning to the judge.
“I call on the court to fine and imprison the witness for the use of an epithet so uncalled for and so little in harmony with the dignity of the place and the honorable judge and jury,” Moth answered, loudly, and as if grieved and humiliated beyond expression.
“The attorney for the state will go on with the case, confining himself to its merits and the evidence in hand,” Judge Douglas commanded, addressing Moth.
“The witness having testified to the truth of what we look to to prove the guilt of the prisoner, I have, your honor, no further questions to ask him,” Moth concluded.
Upon Mr. Promb’s intimating that he did not desire to cross-examine Mr. Seymour, Moth asked that Mr. Philetus Tipps be called.
This gentleman, who sat near Moth, arose upon his name being thus announced, and doing so lifted his eyes, as if to economize time in taking the oath, in pursuance of a habit long acquired. Mr. Tipps’ presence was not commanding, though a tuft of hair standing upright on the edge of his narrow forehead served to augment his height and add to the dignity of his manner; it also gave him a somewhat fierce look, in which an air of alertness blended. Altogether his manner conveyed an idea of weariness, as if he were going through a ceremony often repeated and of little or no interest to him in the first instance. Contrary to what one would suppose of a person performing the office of constable, Mr. Tipps’ body was nothing to speak of, being so slight that he might easily have slipped between the rails of a common fence without injury to his raiment. This, however, did not apply to his feet, which were much spread abroad, as if by long waiting and standing about the corridors of justice. It was also a peculiarity of Mr. Tipps that in raising his eyes to take the oath he did not look upward, but at an angle, as if the Being he appealed to dwelt somewhere on the horizon. This, however, was a device merely, it was apparent, to save labor and conserve his strength, and not at all as indicating the presence of the Deity in that particular place. Of these interesting details Moth took no account, but taking the witness in hand, as if he were a lemon or pomegranate ripe for squeezing, demanded of him, in a peremptory way:
“What is your name and residence?”
“Philetus Tipps, of Rock Island.”
“What is your business?”
“Have you been looking up evidence in the case of the State versus Throckmorton?”
“I have.”
“In such investigation have you discovered evidence of the presence of chloroform in the office of Throckmorton & Rathe, and likely to have been there on the night of the robbery?”
“I have,” Tipps answered.
“In what shape, may I ask?”
“In the shape of a bottle partly filled with that substance.”
“Indeed! Where, may I ask, did you discover this bottle?” Moth inquired, as if hearing of it now for the first time.
“I found it hidden away under the stairway off the room in which Throckmorton slept on the night of the robbery.”
“Have you the bottle with you?”
“I have.”
“I ask that you deliver it to the clerk of the court”; and upon his complying, Moth turned to the judge, saying he had no further questions to ask the witness. Cross-examination being waived, as in the case of Mr. Seymour, Moth asked that Augustus Collygog be called, which being done that gentleman stepped forward to be sworn. Mr. Collygog was a slender, clerical man, with pale face and considerable particularity of dress, having about him the look of one accustomed to handle delicate things, and such as might on occasion pertain to men’s lives or matters of that nature. When he had taken the oath, which he did solemnly and as if determined to be strictly accurate in all he said, Moth asked:
“You are a druggist, are you not?”
“Yes, sir, a druggist; or, excuse me, more appropriately speaking, perhaps, an apothecary,” Mr. Collygog replied, without relaxing the fixed expression of his face.
“You keep a drugstore?”
“Ha! yes, a drugstore; or, you will excuse me, sir, more properly a pharmacy,” he answered, nursing the feeble whiskers that grew on his sunken cheeks.
“Where is your place?”
“In Appletop, sir, and directly over the way, facing the Galena road, if you please, and convenient from every part of the city.”
“You fill prescriptions and orders for medicine and things of that kind?” Moth asked.
“Yes, and a very delicate duty and requiring circumspection. Yes, certainly, requiring circumspection—and much experience,” Mr. Collygog replied, as if deriving great personal satisfaction from what he said.
“Will you look at the bottle partly filled with chloroform, in the possession of the clerk of the court, and tell me if it was put up at your shop?”
“Yes, to be sure, at my pharmacy, if you please,” the witness answered, after carefully examining the bottle from different points of view.
“You are sure?” Moth asked, sternly.
“Oh, dear me, yes, quite sure! The bottle bears my label, as you may see: ‘Doctor Augustus Collygog, Pharmacist and Dealer in Surgical Instruments and Small Notions, Appletop, Illinois.'”
“Who procured it of you?” Moth asked.
“Who? Oh, excuse me, sir; but the secrets of the profession are sacred—sacred, sir.”
At this Moth turned to the judge, but the latter, not waiting, said:
“The witness must answer the question.”
“Thank you, Judge, if I must; but only on compulsion.”
“Well, who was it?” Moth asked, impatiently.
“Ha! yes. Who was what?” Doctor Collygog answered, losing the thread of the examination.
“Who was it that bought the stuff of you?” Moth screamed at the top of his voice.
“Oh, yes, I understand; but not quite so loud, if you please, sir. It was Mr. Job Throckmorton.”
“That will do. If you please, your honor, the state rests here, confident of having proven its case and steadfastly believing in the intelligence of the honorable jury called to pass upon the testimony. Indeed, it is so plain, that I should waste your time with explanations. Having bought the chloroform and sprinkled it about his bed, Throckmorton hid what remained. Through the happy chance of finding the half-filled bottle where he placed it, however, the whole scheme is made clear, and his identity as the robber proven beyond the shadow of a doubt.”
Upon Moth’s concluding, Mr. Promb arose, and facing the last witness, asked:
“When did Mr. Throckmorton procure this medicine of you?”
“Yes, Mr. Promb. Let me see; in September, I think, or possibly—I do not say positively—in the fore part of October. The books of My House will show.”
“Did he say what he wanted it for?”
“I think not; but indeed I might be mistaken in this, it not being thought material in his case, he being a man grown and responsible.”
“Did he not say it was for his nephew, who was ill at the Dragon?”
“Ha! I think not, Mr. Promb; but, dear me, I can’t be certain, as I have just said.”
“That is all. May it please your honor, we should like to have Mr. Seymour recalled”; and upon this being done, Mr. Promb asked:
“Do you recognize this bottle?”
“I do,” answered Mr. Seymour.
“For what purpose did Mr. Throckmorton procure the chloroform it contains?”
“For his nephew, then sick at my house.”
“Was it so used?” Mr. Promb asked.
“It was, to my personal knowledge.”
tumblr_ogyypmpjmm1sjtfoqo5_r1_1280“About the time stated by Mr. Collygog.”
After this, Mr. Promb recalled Tipps, who arose, with hand uplifted and eyes raised obliquely as before, but nothing came of his re-examination. After him many other men, all reputable and of good standing in the community, were summoned by Mr. Promb to prove the prisoner’s high character; and with this, and a fine speech, but lacking force, I thought, Uncle Job’s attorney closed the defense. Upon this, Moth asked that Mr. Seymour be recalled, and when this had been done, he asked:
“After the recovery of Mr. Throckmorton’s nephew, what was done with the bottle of chloroform?”
“I do not know.”
“Who would know?” Moth asked.
“The servants, or perhaps my daughter.”
“That is all,” Moth responded; “I desire that Miss Constance Seymour be called, your honor.”
She not moving, nor seeming able to move, her father went to her, and taking her hand, led her forward, speaking encouragingly as they made their way through the crowded room.
“What is your name?” Moth asked, upon her being sworn.
“Constance Seymour.”
“Do you recognize this bottle, Miss Constance?” Moth asked, and with every show of gentleness and respect, I am bound to say, for which I could not help but feel grateful to the scoundrel.
“Yes, sir.”
“What was done with it after Gilbert Holmes’ illness?” Moth asked.
To this Constance did not reply, nor would she until Judge Douglas, leaning forward, said, with a smile of encouragement, that she must answer the question.
“I placed it in Mr. Throckmorton’s room,” she replied at last, trembling, and scarce above a whisper.
“You placed it in Mr. Throckmorton’s room? Thank you; that will do,” Moth said, looking toward the jury, as if they must certainly now confirm his belief that he had proven Uncle Job’s guilt beyond the shadow of a doubt. “Your honor, I submit the case without further statement,” he went on, “having fully proven that Throckmorton is the thief, and no one else”; saying which, he bowed and sank into his seat with a complacent smile.
Upon this Mr. Promb conferred for a long while with Uncle Job, urging upon him something he would by no means consent to, but of what nature I could not tell. Afterward, turning to the judge, he said:
“The defense also rests its case here, desiring only to point out to the honorable court and jury that in all his life, and in every affair of business in which he has been engaged, and they have been many, Mr. Throckmorton has borne an honorable character before men, no shadow of any kind resting upon it. We hold, and in this we believe the jury will agree, that because of his good name and unimpeachable integrity it is impossible he could have committed the crime imputed to him. There is a mystery connected with the case, we admit, that we cannot now fathom, but feel assured that time will do this, and ere long, and to your entire satisfaction and that of the community. In the confident belief that this is so, he throws himself upon your mercy, believing that the knowledge you have of men and how little likely they are to go wrong when all their lives have been animated by honorable acts, will be found sufficient to justify his acquittal—nay, to command it of you as a right.”
The trial being thus closed, Judge Douglas arose to charge the jury, and doing so, pointed out that they must be governed in all things by the testimony, but that if adverse to the prisoner, his previous good character might of right be considered in fixing the sentence or in considering any plea for mercy the jury might think fit to make.
Being thus instructed, the jury retired, no one in the room leaving or making any move to do so. Such as had been thoughtful enough to bring their lunch, ate it, chatting the while, yet never, except for a moment, taking their eyes off the sad face of the accused, who sat during this trying time, much cast down, it was apparent, at the desperate strait in which he found himself. Thus half an hour passed, when word came that the jury had agreed upon a verdict. At this, Judge Douglas resumed his seat and motioned for the jury to be brought in. As the twelve men filed into the room, I scanned them one by one to see if I might find some hopeful sign, but unavailingly. For, as if having an unpleasant duty to perform, the face of each was filled with perplexity and regret, nor did any one of them look toward Uncle Job. At this, and arguing from it that he was lost, I sprang up, and throwing my arms about his neck, screamed at the top of my voice:
“He’s innocent! He’s innocent! I know he’s innocent!”
Upon this a great commotion arose, the whole audience getting to their feet, the better to see the prisoner and learn the cause of the disturbance. In the midst of this, and while the sobs of Miss Betty and Constance could be plainly heard, a great noise arose at the entrance to the court, and this growing louder and being accompanied by cries and oaths, every one turned to see what it was all about. This I did not regard, until Uncle Job, standing up, cried out: “My God, Rathe!” Then looking up, I saw Fox and Blott, and back of them Mr. Hayward and the landlord of the Eagle’s Nest dragging and pushing Rathe forward into the room. Bringing him bound to the table about which the lawyers sat, Fox stepped aside and whispered to Uncle Job, Mr. Promb joining them. While this was occurring, the jury stood still, not understanding in the least what it meant. Nor the judge any more than they; and at last, leaning forward somewhat impatiently, he commanded the bailiff to enforce order in the court. Moth, all this while, had not stirred, but suspecting what was about to happen, the color left his face and he half arose to his feet. Never have I seen a man more disturbed, but whether his passions were directed toward Rathe or Uncle Job I could not tell; nor did it matter. When some order had been secured, Mr. Promb turned to the court, and in a voice he could scarce make heard, so greatly was he moved, said:
“May it please the court, we beg in the interest of justice that the case of the State versus Throckmorton be reopened, as we have important evidence to present, not before obtainable.”
“What is the nature of the evidence?” Judge Douglas asked, evidently at a loss to understand the meaning of what had occurred.
“We have here in the person of Rathe one of the men who committed the robbery, Mr. Throckmorton not being in any way concerned in it, as we have claimed all along, and are now able to prove.”
“I protest, your honor,” Moth cried, springing to his feet. “This is a conspiracy of robbers to ruin an honest man and liberate a rogue, and nothing else. A reward is out for the man Fox there for highway robbery. He is nothing but a common bandit, and I call on the court to arrest him here and now.”
“We will attend to that presently, Mr. Moth,” Judge Douglas remarked, holding up his hand to enforce silence. “Meantime, Mr. Promb, the court and jury will hear any testimony you may have to offer, if it is material, as you say.”
“It is material, your honor; indeed, proves the innocence of the prisoner at the bar. In pursuance of our just rights in the matter, therefore, I desire that Mr. George Fox be called to testify.”
No further objection being offered, the latter stepping forward and being sworn, Mr. Promb went on:
“Now tell the judge and jury, if you please, all you know about this case, and who it was that took the money Mr. Throckmorton is accused of stealing.”
“It is this way, your honor,” Fox went on. “Believing from information I had picked up that Rathe and the outlaw Burke were implicated in the theft, I said as much to these gentlemen with me, telling them, upon their expressing disbelief, that I would prove what I affirmed if they would go with me, and this before they should be called upon to act in any manner. Upon their consenting, we secured a boat, and last night dropped down the river to Black Hawk’s abandoned hut, where I had reason to believe the thieves were to divide the proceeds of the robbery. Secreting ourselves where we could see and hear all that occurred, we had not long to wait before Burke appeared, and presently Rathe. Lighting a candle, Burke produced the very packages of money which Mr. Throckmorton is accused of stealing. When, however, he was about to open them for the purpose of dividing the plunder, Rathe, who stood somewhat in the shade, drew a pistol and fired upon him. Burke had not noticed the motion, and when the ball struck him, staggered and partly fell. Not being wholly disabled, he gave a cry and rushed upon Rathe, but the latter evading him, drew a huge knife and plunged it to the hilt in his breast. At this Burke threw up his hands with a groan and fell to the floor dead. All this we saw, and rushing into the room, overcame Rathe, but too late to save Burke. In proof of all I say, your honor, here are the witnesses and there the packages of money, and the knife with which Rathe killed Burke”; saying which, Fox laid the money on the table before him, placing the bowie-knife, the blade of which was black with clotted blood, beside it. “We expected, your honor,” Fox went on, as he stepped back, “to have reached here before the trial, but the river being full of ice, were prevented.”
Moth waiving cross-examination, Mr. Promb called Mr. Hayward, who confirmed Fox’s account, after which he turned to the judge, saying the defense had no further testimony to offer. Upon this Judge Douglas turned to Moth and asked if he desired to question the witness, or had any evidence to present. To this Moth only shook his head, not taking his eyes off Rathe. For it was apparent he had believed Uncle Job guilty, and what he now heard fell upon him like a stroke from heaven, as his face clearly showed. Judge Douglas, upon this, turned to the jury, saying they must consider the new evidence with the old; but they, not moving, and all looking toward Uncle Job, spoke up as with one voice: “NOT GUILTY.”
Bowing to Uncle Job and smiling, Judge Douglas dismissed him, ordering at the same time that Rathe be removed to the jail to await commitment and trial. At this the latter who had not moved, took a step forward, and facing the judge, bowed, saying, as if speaking of some commonplace occurrence:
“I admit all that has been said, your honor. There was not enough for two, and so I killed Burke, and a good riddance it is to the community. I am only sorry, however, that it was not the pious Throckmorton instead,” he added, turning and looking at Uncle Job. “Burke deserved death, but not more than I, you will say, and truly enough. I intended to kill him when I went to the cabin, and in this way, to illustrate, your honor, and quite simply,” Rathe went on, taking up the knife with both hands, his arms being only loosely tied. “As he came toward me, the pistol-shot not proving effective, I drew my knife, and raising it the full length of my arm, buried it to the hilt in his bosom, like this”; and as he concluded, and looking the judge calmly in the face, he plunged the weapon to the handle in his own heart.
At first the lookers-on thought he was acting, but when, after a moment, he wavered and fell full length on the floor, there was a cry of horror from all present, many women fainting, and the men staring, not knowing what to make of it.
* * * * *
When some time had elapsed and the dead body of Rathe had been removed and order had been restored, Moth arose, and turning to the judge, said:
“I call upon the court before it adjourns to order the arrest of the man Fox for highway robbery.”
At this, Fox, who was standing within the inclosure, turned to the judge and said:
“May it please your honor, I admit all this man may say, not denying anything, and beg that I may be tried here and now, and by the present jury.”
To this Judge Douglas demurred, but after reflecting upon it for a while and conferring with the jury, he turned to Moth and said:
“You hear his admission, Mr. Moth? Are you ready to go on with the case, as he suggests? If so, I can see no legal objection.”
“It is what I desire above all things, your honor,” Moth, answered, in a sober way. “The man should be in the penitentiary, and the sooner he is sent there the better for the community.” NORFLOXACIN
“Then the trial may proceed. Bailiff, conduct the prisoner to the bar,” Judge Douglas ordered.
When this had been done and the jury again sworn, Judge Douglas motioned Moth to proceed. This he did, after taking the oath, recounting at length and with great particularity, the attempt to rob him, and Fox’s mishap and final discomfiture and imprisonment. When he had finished, Fox, standing up and declining counsel, turned to the judge, and said:
“What this man says, your honor, is true, save, perhaps, a propensity natural to him to exaggerate. I, however, did not seek to injure him, and at the time he speaks of he was himself striving to unlawfully kidnap this friendless youth, except for whom Rathe would now be at liberty and Mr. Throckmorton a convicted criminal,” saying which, Fox stepped back and put his arm about my neck. “This does, not excuse my crime, I know. I only claim Moth was not harmed at my hands, either in body or purse. My former lawless way of life I have abandoned, as I can prove, though it was more foolish than harmful. Folly, your honor, comes natural to me, crime does not. I played robber, and thought I was one, when in fact I was only an ass. No one here or elsewhere has ever been harmed by me. I am no one’s enemy but my own. Against my manhood and knowledge of right I sinned, and sinning have paid the penalty by outlawry. Moth’s complaint against me is at best a moral one only. I regret it, however, and would undo it if I could, but cannot, though I repent in sackcloth and ashes. Such are the facts, your honor and gentlemen. I do not claim I am what I should be. Nor was this man, a self-confessed kidnaper, and that against the weak and unfriended. Among my sins, your honor, I have not such a one to answer for. I ask you, gentlemen, to judge between us. Look in his face and mine, and say if in your hearts you think him the more honest. If so, then convict me; if not, be lenient. My life is harassed by him beyond endurance, and I cannot mend until I shake him off. The worst I can suffer will be better than the present. He was not robbed by me, nor did I seek to cripple or kill him, either of which things I might have done had I wished. That is all I have to say, your honor, and concluding, I put myself in your hands, craving forgiveness and mercy of all men”; saying which, Fox sat down and buried his face in his hands, overcome by his agitation and shame.
When he was through, and Moth making no move, Judge Douglas turned to the jury and said:
“You have heard the evidence. If a crime has been committed, it is not denied. You may retire.”
This they did in a scramble, but scarcely had the door closed than it flew open again and they filed out, but not now with doleful faces, as before.
“Have you reached a verdict?” Judge Douglas asked, not showing any surprise at their quick return.
“We have, your honor,” answered the foreman.
“What is it?”
“We find the prisoner not guilty.”
“Mr. Fox, you are at liberty. The court stands adjourned”; saying which, Judge Douglas arose, and coming forward, congratulated Fox and Uncle Job in the most kindly manner on their happy deliverance. Afterward turning to Moth and taking his hand, he greeted him with the utmost cordiality, at which I wondered with open mouth.
When the trials were thus concluded, Uncle Job put his arm about Fox, the two leaving the room together; but not without much difficulty, for at every step they were made to stop and receive the congratulations of those present. For of all who were critical and cold before, not one but now vied with his neighbor in grasping and holding the hands of the two gentlemen as they passed, giving them at last a mighty cheer as they disappeared through the door. Mr. Seymour, staying behind, collected our friends and saviors, and with Judge Douglas we all went to the Dragon together, where Uncle Job and Fox had already arrived. Here a table was soon spread, Miss Betty and Constance and Setti and I waiting upon the guests, and this with such love and throbbing hearts as I am sure never beat in the breasts of servitors before.
* * * * *
Of the particulars of the crime for which Uncle Job was tried, we learned in part later. It was the sight of the bottle of chloroform in his room at the Dragon that suggested the conspiracy to Rathe, a movable panel fixed in the stairway beside the cot in the office being the means employed afterward for getting at Uncle Job without entering the place where he lay asleep. When these preliminaries had been arranged, Rathe waited for an opportunity, which he knew, from Uncle Job’s business, would not be long in coming. Of the villain Rathe and his previous life we never found out anything, for among his effects there was no scrap affording clew to his parentage or country, unless, indeed, a sheet of paper in his box, on which there was a coat-of-arms, with the legend “Superamus eos qui oppugnant aut morimur,” might have afforded such a clew.