Page images

He plead not guilty and made every preparation for defense. It was like fighting a masked battery; for they knew not what the evidence would be against them. The trial opened, and Sarah Williams, to make the scene more effective, came dressed in black and looking very pale. She was called to the stand and, between tears and sobs, told her sad story of how her loving husband had one day quarrelled with the defendant, and the latter had threatened him. Was anyone else present? Yes. John Bly and Mr. Louder were both present when he threatened to kill her husband. Charles Stevens remembered having a slight altercation when he was quite a boy with Mr. Will. iams; but it was such a trivial matter that he had forgotten it till now. Then she told that her loving husband feared he would be slain by Charles Stevens, and that he went away to New York city on à voyage, and that the same day Charles Stevens had come to her house, and had asked her whither her husband had gone, and she had every evidence to believe he went after him.

There were other witnesses, who swore that about this time Charles Stevens left the town and was gone away for some time. Charles remembered that on that occasion he had taken a journey to Rhode Island.

Then came two strangers, evidently sea-faring

men, of the lowest order. They were brutal, un. scrupulous and had lived the lives of buccaneers, as was afterward proved. Both swore that they knew defendant, although he had never seen either before. They saw the defendant slay Samuel Williams on Long Island, near the beach, and both gave a graphic account of his dragging the body along the sand and hurling it into the water, where the tide bore it away.

Their statements were corroborative.

Bly and Louder were next produced, who gave evidence that the defendant had confessed to them that he had slain Samuel Williams, and that defendant was greatly enamored of the murdered man's wife.

Mr. Parris and others testified to having seen him in the company of Sarah Williams on divers of times, and that he had shown great fondness for her.

“What have you to say to this evidence?” asked the chief justice to the prisoner.

“I can only say they are all grievous liars."

“The jury will take notice how the defendant assaults men of unquestioned character. Even the minister is assailed."

There was a murmur of discontent, in which even some of the jury joined.

Judges, jury and prosecutors were all against

Charles, and his trial must result in conviction. The people were excited at the dastardly murder, and began to complain at the delay in the trial, which wore tediously on day after day for nearly a week.

At last the evidence was all in, and the last argument made. There was everything against the prisoner. The prosecution had been so skillfully planned and executed, that there could be but one result. Charles Stevens was very calm, while Cora was carried away in a fainting condition. Mr. Waters went to the prisoner to speak with him.

Charles' face was white as death; but his mind was clear and showed not the least agitation.

“There can be but one result,” the prisoner said. An acquittal is impossible. Be good to Cora and mother, and keep them both away on that day. It would be too much for them. They would not forget it to their dying hour." Mr. Waters assured him that his last

requests should be granted, and spoke a few words of consolation and hope. So many good people of late had perished on the gibbet, that hanging was no longer ignominious. The best and purest had died thus.

The jury had been out but a few moments, when a great hub-bub arose without, and voices could be heard crying:

“Wait! wait! stay your verdict!”

A crowd of men rushed into the court room with a tall young man, whose weather-beaten face indicated a seafaring life, at the head of them. His cruel gray eyes, bold manner, as well as the pistols and cutlass at his belt, gave him the appearance of a pirate.

“I am not dead, I trow! Who said I was dead?” he asked.

“Samuel Williams! Alive!” cried a score of voices.

“Who said I was murdered ?"

Sarah Williams rose with a shriek and stared at her husband, as if he had been an apparition, while all the witnesses, including the Rev. Mr. Parris, were covered with confusion. The jury was recalled and Samuel Williams himself took the stand. He stated:

“I left my wife, because I could not live with her, and, marry! I would prefer hanging to existence with her. I went to New York, where Captain Robert Kidd was beating up recruits to sail as a privateer in the Adventurer to protect commerce against the French privateers and sea-robbers. I enlisted and then, with one hundred and fifty men, Kidd did good service on the American coast, and we went to the Indian Ocean to attack pirates. Our plunder from the pirates made us long to gain

more booty, and Kidd became a pirate himself. Armed with cutlasses and pistols, we were made to board many vessels, English as well as other nationalities. We went to South America, the West Indies, and finally came to New York, where Captain Kidd, one dark night, landed on Gardiner's Island, east of Long Island, with an enormous treasure of gold, jewels and precious stones, which he buried in the earth. From there we came to Boston. A pardon had been granted for all, save Kidd, who was yesterday arrested and sent to England to be tried. * I heard that a man had been arrested for my murder, and I hastened to

save him.”

The romantic story of the returned pirate produced the most profound sensation among the people in the court room. The jury had just voted on a verdict of guilty, when they were recalled, and instructed to give a verdict of acquittal, which they did. Mr. Parris retired in humiliation and disgrace. Cora fainted in her rescued lover's arms, while Mrs. Stevens, falling on her knees, thanked God that the light of Heaven at last shone on the path so long dark. Cora's mother came to take her from the liberated prisoner; but he would not

* Kidd was subsequently tried, condemned, and hung in chains; but his treasure on Gardiner's Island has not to this day been found.

« PreviousContinue »