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Chapter 16 "NON PROVEN"

  • "There is no doubt," continued the man in the corner, "that what littl_ympathy the young girl's terrible position had aroused in the public mind ha_ied out the moment that David Graham left the witness-box on the second da_f the trial. Whether Edith Crawford was guilty of murder or not, the callou_ay in which she had accepted a deformed lover, and then thrown him over, ha_et every one's mind against her.
  • "It was Mr. Graham himself who had been the first to put the Procurator Fisca_n possession of the fact that the accused had written to David from London,
  • breaking off her engagement. This information had, no doubt, directed th_ttention of the Fiscal to Miss Crawford, and the police soon brought forwar_he evidence which had led to her arrest.
  • "We had a final sensation on the third day, when Mr. Campbell, jeweller, o_igh Street, gave his evidence. He said that on October 25th a lady came t_is shop and offered to sell him a pair of diamond earrings. Trade had bee_ery bad, and he had refused the bargain, although the lady seemed ready t_art with the earrings for an extraordinarily low sum, considering the beaut_f the stones.
  • "In fact it was because of this evident desire on the lady's part to sell a_any_ cost that he had looked at her more keenly than he otherwise would hav_one. He was now ready to swear that the lady that offered him the diamon_arrings was the prisoner in the dock.
  • "I can assure you that as we all listened to this apparently damnator_vidence, you might have heard a pin drop amongst the audience in that crowde_ourt. The girl alone, there in the dock, remained calm and unmoved. Remembe_hat for two days we had heard evidence to prove that old Dr. Crawford ha_ied leaving his daughter penniless, that having no mother she had bee_rought up by a maiden aunt, who had trained her to be a governess, whic_ccupation she had followed for years, and that certainly she had never bee_nown by any of her friends to be in possession of solitaire diamond earrings.
  • "The prosecution had certainly secured an ace of trumps, but Sir Jame_enwick, who during the whole of that day had seemed to take little interes_n the proceedings, here rose from his seat, and I knew at once that he ha_ot a tit-bit in the way of a 'point' up his sleeve. Gaunt, and unusuall_all, and with his beak-like nose, he always looks strangely impressive whe_e seriously tackles a witness. He did it this time with a vengeance, I ca_ell you. He was all over the pompous little jeweller in a moment.
  • "'Had Mr. Campbell made a special entry in his book, as to the visit of th_ady in question?'
  • "'No.'
  • "'Had he any special means of ascertaining when that visit did actually tak_lace?'
  • "'No—but—'
  • "'What record had he of the visit?'
  • "Mr. Campbell had none. In fact, after about twenty minutes of cross-
  • examination, he had to admit that he had given but little thought to th_nterview with the lady at the time, and certainly not in connection with th_urder of Lady Donaldson, until he had read in the papers that a young lad_ad been arrested.
  • "Then he and his clerk talked the matter over, it appears, and together the_ad certainly recollected that a lady had brought some beautiful earrings fo_ale on a day which _must have been_ the very morning after the murder. If Si_ames Fenwick's object was to discredit this special witness, he certainl_ained his point.
  • "All the pomposity went out of Mr. Campbell, he became flurried, then excited,
  • then he lost his temper. After that he was allowed to leave the court, and Si_ames Fenwick resumed his seat, and waited like a vulture for its prey.
  • "It presented itself in the person of Mr. Campbell's clerk, who, before th_rocurator Fiscal, had corroborated his employer's evidence in every respect.
  • In Scotland no witness in any one case is present in court during th_xamination of another, and Mr. Macfarlane, the clerk, was, therefore, quit_nprepared for the pitfalls which Sir James Fenwick had prepared for him. H_umbled into them, head foremost, and the eminent advocate turned him insid_ut like a glove.
  • "Mr. Macfarlane did not lose his temper; he was of too humble a frame of min_o do that, but he got into a hopeless quagmire of mixed recollections, and h_oo left the witness-box quite unprepared to swear as to the day of th_nterview with the lady with the diamond earrings.
  • "I dare say, mind you," continued the man in the corner with a chuckle, "tha_o most people present, Sir James Fenwick's cross-questioning seeme_ompletely irrelevant. Both Mr. Campbell and his clerk were quite ready t_wear that they had had an interview concerning some diamond earrings with _ady, of whose identity with the accused they were perfectly convinced, and t_he casual observer the question as to the time or even the day when tha_nterview took place could make but little difference in the ultimate issue.
  • "Now I took in, in a moment, the entire drift of Sir James Fenwick's defenc_f Edith Crawford. When Mr. Macfarlane left the witness-box, the second victi_f the eminent advocate's caustic tongue, I could read as in a book the whol_istory of that crime, its investigation, and the mistakes made by the polic_irst and the Public Prosecutor afterwards.
  • "Sir James Fenwick knew them, too, of course, and he placed a finger upon eac_ne, demolishing—like a child who blows upon a house of cards—the entir_caffolding erected by the prosecution.
  • "Mr. Campbell's and Mr. Macfarlane's identification of the accused with th_ady who, on some date—admitted to be uncertain—had tried to sell a pair o_iamond earrings, was the first point. Sir James had plenty of witnesses t_rove that on the 25th, the day after the murder, the accused was in London,
  • whilst, the day before, Mr. Campbell's shop had been closed long before th_amily circle had seen the last of Lady Donaldson. Clearly the jeweller an_is clerk must have seen some other lady, whom their vivid imagination ha_ictured as being identical with the accused.
  • "Then came the great question of time. Mr. David Graham had been evidently th_ast to see Lady Donaldson alive. He had spoken to her as late as 8.30 p.m.
  • Sir James Fenwick had called two porters at the Caledonian Railway Station wh_estified to Miss Crawford having taken her seat in a first-class carriage o_he 9.10 train, some minutes before it started.
  • "'Was it conceivable, therefore,' argued Sir James, 'that in the space of hal_n hour the accused—a young girl—could have found her way surreptitiously int_he house, at a time when the entire household was still astir, that sh_hould have strangled Lady Donaldson, forced open the safe, and made away wit_he jewels? A man—an experienced burglar might have done it, but I conten_hat the accused is physically incapable of accomplishing such a feat.
  • "'With regard to the broken engagement,' continued the eminent counsel with _mile, 'it may have seemed a little heartless, certainly, but heartlessness i_o crime in the eyes of the law. The accused has stated in her declaratio_hat at the time she wrote to Mr. David Graham, breaking off her engagement,
  • she had heard nothing of the Edinburgh tragedy.
  • "'The London papers had reported the crime very briefly. The accused was bus_hopping; she knew nothing of Mr. David Graham's altered position. In no cas_as the breaking off of the engagement a proof that the accused had obtaine_ossession of the jewels by so foul a deed.'
  • "It is, of course, impossible for me," continued the man in the corne_pologetically, "to give you any idea of the eminent advocate's eloquence an_asterful logic. It struck every one, I think, just as it did me, that h_hiefly directed his attention to the fact that there was absolutely n_proof_ against the accused.
  • "Be that as it may, the result of that remarkable trial was a verdict of 'No_roven.' The jury was absent forty minutes, and it appears that in the mind o_very one of them there remained, in spite of Sir James' arguments, a firml_ooted conviction—call it instinct, if you like—that Edith Crawford had don_way with Lady Donaldson in order to become possessed of those jewels, an_hat in spite of the pompous jeweller's many contradictions, she had offere_im some of those diamonds for sale. But there was not enough proof t_onvict, and she was given the benefit of the doubt.
  • "I have heard English people argue that in England she would have been hanged.
  • Personally I doubt that. I think that an English jury, not having the judicia_oophole of 'Non Proven,' would have been bound to acquit her. What do yo_hink?"