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- A Romance of Billy-Goat Hill - 51/51 -


Chick, counting the passing moments.

At last the dark courthouse loomed up ahead of them, and Phineas rounding a curb by a fraction, dashed for the open square.

"Morley case gone to the jury?" he hung half out of the wagon to shout to a man coming down the wide steps.

"Not yet."

Miss Lady was already frantically pulling the blankets from the submerged Chick.

"Wait for Mr. Flathers to carry you," she cried, springing to the ground and looking up at him anxiously. "Remember you are going to tell them everything. You are helping to save Mr. Morley, and you're doing it for me."

The eyes of the pale, spindle-legged child, standing in the end of the wagon, flashed past the courthouse to the barred windows of the adjoining jail. Suddenly his legs fell to shaking harder even than they had shaken at the hospital, and his lips quivered threateningly.

"Chick!" cried Miss Lady despairingly. "You aren't going to fail me-- you are going to stand by me, aren't you?"

For a moment he shut his eyes very tight, then he transferred the small quid of tobacco which had been his one solace in the past hour, from his right cheek to his left.

"Sure!" he said resolutely.

CHAPTER XXX

"One! two! three! four!"

The big clock that had ticked away so many anxious moments for so many anxious watchers, hurled its announcement over the crowded court room. The last testimony had been given, Chick had told his story, produced his proofs and identified Morley; the prosecuting attorney had torn his story to tatters, and confused the youthful witness hopelessly; the counsel for the defense had now risen to make his final speech to the jury. Suspense hung thick as a fog over the court room.

Miss Lady, sitting between Mr. Gooch and Connie, pushed back her short black veil impatiently. The hours she had fought through since midnight seemed as nothing compared to this eternity of waiting. Since entering the room she had not once looked at Donald. She dared not open even a tiny sluice in the dike that held back the sea of her love. But in every fiber of her being she felt him sitting there under suspicion, his future in the hands of twelve men who had the power of making him suffer the penalty of a crime which he had not committed. It was unjust, cruel, infamous! Surge after surge of indignation swept over her. She would fight for him against them all. She would get up and tell what she knew of the story, and his reason for staying abroad.

"Isn't he magnificent?" whispered Connie, clasping her arm; "he has been perfectly calm and quiet like that all along, and yet think what it means to him! Look at his eyes!"

Miss Lady could not look, the grip at her throat was tightening and a dull roar sounded in her ears.

"But if he loses, Connie? If he loses, what then?"

"He won't lose. He's going to win. You ought to have heard him this morning. He was perfectly magnificent! Even Mr. Gooch said he made him think of Lincoln. Listen to him now!"

Miss Lady followed Connie's adoring gaze until it rested on the stern, earnest face of Noah Wicker, then the truth rushed upon her.

For a moment a blindness seized her, then she sprang to her feet and lifted her face to Don. He had been waiting for that look ever since she entered the court room, and when it came he was ready for it.

As Noah Wicker sat down amid a thunder of applause, and the jury, after a brief charge from the bench made ready to retire, a slender, black-gowned figure pushed her way impetuously through the crowd. She circled the rear seats and rushed headlong to where the defendant sat.

"Are you a member of Mr. Morley's family?" asked the deputy sheriff.

"No," said Miss Lady, brushing him aside, "but I'm going to be."

CHAPTER XXXI

That evening Mr. Gooch went home with the Ivys whom, as he was now adrift, he purposed adopting. For a long time they sat over the fire discussing the exciting events of the day.

"I could scarcely believe my eyes," murmured Mrs. Ivy, "when at the verdict,' Not Guilty,' I saw her fling her arms about his neck!"

"Why surprised?" snapped the attorney. "Aren't women born fatuous?"

"But the whole thing is so indelicate, so heartless! A young widow who ought to be mourning beside her husband's grave, and a wild young man who has just escaped the penitentiary. Hasn't suffering taught them anything?"

Gerald, sitting on a hassock before the fire with hands clasped about his knees, looked up with shining eyes:

"You don't understand, Mater! All this has been the price they've paid for each other. A great love like theirs comes high. One must pay for it with suffering. Jove, it was worth it! That one look they gave each other, there at the end--",

"But the dear, dear Doctor," interrupted Mrs. Ivy, "laid away only seven months ago!"

"Six months and three weeks," corrected Mr. Gooch testily.

THE END


A Romance of Billy-Goat Hill - 51/51

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