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Three times that winter I had seen Benjamin Grimshaw followed by the Silent Woman clothed in rags and pointing with her finger. Mr. Hacket said that she probably watched for him out of her little window above the blacksmith shop that overlooked the south road. When he came to town she followed. I always greeted the woman when I passed her, but when she was on the trail of the money-lender she seemed unaware of my presence, so intent was she on the strange task she had set herself. If he were not in sight she smiled when passing me, but neither spoke nor nodded.
Grimshaw had gone about his business as usual when I saw him last, but I had noted a look of the worried rat in his face. He had seemed to be under extreme irritation. He scolded every man who spoke to him. The notion came to me that her finger was getting down to the quick.
The trial of Amos came on. He had had "blood on his feet," as they used to say, all the way from Lickitysplit to Lewis County in his flight, having attacked and slightly wounded two men with a bowie knife who had tried to detain him at Rainy Lake. He had also shot at an officer in the vicinity of Lowville, where his arrest was effected. He had been identified by all these men, and so his character as a desperate man had been established. This in connection with the scar on his face and the tracks, which the boots of Amos fitted, and the broken gun stock convinced the jury of his guilt.
The most interesting bit of testimony which came out at the trial was this passage from a yellow paper-covered tale which had been discovered hidden in the haymow of the Grimshaw barn:
"Lightfoot waited in the bushes with his trusty rifle in hand. When the two unsuspecting travelers reached a point nearly opposite him he raised his rifle and glanced over its shining barrel and saw that the flight of his bullet would cut the throats of both his persecutors. He pulled the trigger and the bullet sped to its mark. Both men plunged to the ground as if they had been smitten by a thunderbolt. Lightfoot leaped from cover and seized the rearing horses, and mounting one of them while he led the other, headed them down the trail, and in no great hurry, for he knew that the lake was between him and Blodgett and that the latter's boat was in no condition to hold water."
It was the swift and deadly execution of Lightfoot which Amos had been imitating, as he presently confessed.
I knew then the power of words--even foolish words--over the minds of the young when they are printed and spread abroad.
I remember well the look of the venerable Judge Cady as he pronounced the sentence of death upon Amos Grimshaw. A ray of sunlight slanting through a window in the late afternoon fell upon his gracious countenance, shining also, with the softer light of his spirit. Slowly, solemnly, kindly, he spoke the words of doom. It was his way of saying them that first made me feel the dignity and majesty of the law. The kind and fatherly tone of his voice put me in mind of that Supremest Court which is above all question and which was swiftly to enter judgment in this matter and in others related to it.
Slowly the crowd moved out of the court room. Benjamin Grimshaw rose and calmly whispered to his lawyer. He had not spoken to his son or seemed to notice him since the trial had begun, nor did he now. Many had shed tears that day, but not he. Mr. Grimshaw never showed but one emotion--that of anger. He was angry now. His face was hard and stern. He muttered as he walked out of the court room, his cane briskly beating the floor. I and others followed him, moved by differing motives. I was sorry for him and if I had dared I should have told him that. I was amazed to see how sturdily he stood under this blow--like a mighty oak in a storm. The look of him thrilled me--it suggested that something was going to happen.
The Silent Woman--as ragged as ever--was waiting on the steps. Out went her bony finger as he came down. He turned and struck at her with his cane and shouted in a shrill voice that rang out like a trumpet in his frenzy:
"Go 'way from me. Take her away, somebody. I can't stan' it. She's killin' me. Take her away. Take her away. Take her away."
His face turned purple and then white. He reeled and fell headlong, like a tree severed from its roots, and lay still on the hard, stone pavement. It seemed as if snow were falling on his face--it grew so white. The Silent Woman stood as still as he, pointing at him with her finger, her look unchanged. People came running toward us. I lifted the head of Mr. Grimshaw and laid it on my knee. It felt like the head of the stranger in Rattleroad. Old Kate bent over and looked at the eyelids of the man, which fluttered faintly and were still.
"Dead!" she muttered.
Then, as if her work were finished, she turned and made her way through the crowd and walked slowly down the street. Men stood aside to let her pass, as if they felt the power of her spirit and feared the touch of her garments.
Two or three men had run to the house of the nearest doctor. The crowd thickened. As I sat looking down at the dead face in my lap, a lawyer who had come out of the court room pressed near me and bent over and looked at the set eyes of Benjamin Grimshaw and said:
"She floored him at last. I knew she would. He tried not to see her, but I tell ye that bony old finger of hers burnt a hole in him. He couldn't stand it. I knew he'd blow up some day under the strain. She got him at last."
"Who got him?" another asked.
"Rovin' Kate. She killed him pointing her finger at him--so."
"She's got an evil eye. Everybody's afraid o' the crazy ol' Trollope!"
"Nonsense! She isn't half as crazy as the most of us," said the lawyer. "In my opinion she had a good reason for pointing her finger at that man. She came from the same town he did over in Vermont. Ye don't know what happened there."
The doctor arrived. The crowds made way for him. He knelt beside the still figure and made the tests. He rose and shook his head, saying:
"It's all over. Let one o' these boys go down and bring the undertaker."
Benjamin Grimshaw, the richest man in the township, was dead, and I have yet to hear of any mourners.
Three days later I saw his body lowered into its grave. The little, broken-spirited wife stood there with the same sad smile on her face that I had noted when I first saw her in the hills. Rovin' Kate was there in the clothes she had worn Christmas day. She was greatly changed. Her hair was neatly combed. The wild look had left her eyes. She was like one whose back is relieved of a heavy burden. Her lips moved as she scattered little red squares of paper into the grave. I suppose they thought it a crazy whim of hers--they who saw her do it. I thought that I understood the curious bit of symbolism and so did the schoolmaster, who stood beside me. Doubtless the pieces of paper numbered her curses.
"The scarlet sins of his youth are lying down with him in the dust," Hacket whispered as we walked away together.
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