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T hE COLLAPSIBLE HUSBAND
PX THE VERANDAH-where I sat,; I
turned. Down flu?' orange and lily
hedged avenue a motor had come. At
the door of the hotel it stopped. A
tat woman alighted, a man . followed.
The woman, veiled from the glare of
the California sun. ascended the steps.
The hall engulfed" her. Before I could speak, it en
gulfed the man. ';
"Mores!" I mentally exclaimed. At sight of him
my thoughts shot hack. As reporter. I was assisting
again at the trial of Judith Caxton whom he had de
Judith Caxton was accused of murdering her hus
band. Both were known, by repute at least, in New
York where \ Caxton, who was a scientist, , had caused
lather a ripple in the press. It had been announced
that he was engaged on a work similar to Delormel's.
To the 'public generally that was so much Greek.
To students it was refreshment. Delormel's work is
unobtainable anywhere, at any price, and what is
worse — or better, according to the point of view —
Delorinel was killed for writing it. That is history.
The announcement, therefore, that Caxton was en
gaged on something similar caused a ripple ; first, be
cause no one could imagine where he had obtained the
data, yet chiefly because the original obviously be
longed to the forbidden class; that is, it was supposed
,to have been based either on the Kdjur which none
but the Thibetian hierarchy may approach, or else on
the ; esoteric sections of the JJpanishads which the
priests of Brahma guard.
These works are not for everybody. If rumors con
cerning them are true, they contain the lost arcana,
the sciences that plutoiiian cataclysms engulfed, the
secrets of , the cosmos. Such things are not for no
bodies who talk about nothing. ■Moreover, they are
doubly inaccessible. Written in tinted word forms
of which the words mean one thing and the tints an
other, a Champollion might perhaps decipher the
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A woman vulgar and obe»e, a face that time had coarsened and temper had marred
and other MEDDLERS m
THE CAXTON CASE
Illustrations vTj/ Emrich
text, but, unless he were initiate, he could not con
strue: the colors. Then, also, apart from their diffi
culties, these works have their dangers.::; To get at
them is one, to publish them is another. Delorrael
must have incurred both. His life was the penalty.
So apparently was Caxton's.
But not to the district attorney. The latter, a fero
cious person named Sherwood, contended that Cax
ton died of viper venom administered by his wife and
he had experts to testify at least to the administering.
"Do you really regard these people as experts?"
Mores, in a casual, condescending way asked of him;
whereupon he proceeded to eat them up and, that
done, he produced experts of his own who testified to
just the contrary.
During the trial I go! to know Mores rather well.
Afterward I heard — yet what does one not hear? —
that in a panic which supervened he had dropped a
lot of money, that the loss had affected him, and that
he had vacated the courts and the city.
Now, here he , was at this California resort, where,
but an hour before, after a stretch of work in San
Francisco, I had come for an outing. November had
come with me. But not as yet the usual tourist.
Practically, the hotel was empty and I was glad that
I had at least an acquaintance in the land.
At sight of him also, the trial, as I have said, re
turned. The vocation of reporter is not considered
enviable, but there were not a few that envied it then.
It took me, where they could ? not go, into the Gen
eral Sessions where there is more drama than in all
of Homer. .
In this drama, as the curtain went up, a call re
sounded : r ,
"Judith Caxton to the Bar!"
INTO the court, the defendant came and shrank
* rather than sat on a chair beside Mores.
Never have I seen a face so spectral. It was not
innocence that it expressed, nor yet guilt; it was
horror. Her ; skin was white as white
paper and that whiteness was accentu
ated by her weeds and by her eyes which
were black and yet burning. Normally
she must have been beautiful. Her fea
tures displayed the sensitiveness of a
human mimosa and it ; was that sensitive
ness combined with the tragedy of her
position that made her look like
a phantom, not from Homer/but
But one gets accustomed to all
things. The soul makes itself at
home with what: it
must. As the trial pro
ceeded the horror" of it
must have waned, for
once she smiled. Dur
ing the summing up,
her as hysterical and
insatiable of. pleasure
arid,;in ;pursuit of it,
hesitating at nothing,
even at crime. It was
then that she smiled,
but her smile was as
weary and as flicker
ing as a fire about to
"May ■ it_ please Uhej
Court Mr. Foreman
and gentlemen" of" the
With three I H IL '
bows ant! Hr^
these r i 1 ii- \
a Is, Slier- wr P^
wood open- £mf|(l>
ed for the • —
him the defendant had grievances against (he de
ceased whom hi described as a recluse occupied with
the recondite, a man who never went anywhere, never
saw anybody and who refused to have guests at his
house. Many a.woman has hated her husband to the
death for less, and that fact Sherwood put before the
jury. It constituted, he said, the motive for the mur
der of this man from whom the defendant had been
planning: to obtain a divorce. But to obtain it meant,
Sherwood declared, a sojourn in Nevada, in Idaho,
exile from the smartness of upper Filth avenue life.
There was a shorter way and that way she took.
Among her effects was a vial containing venom from
the tic-potonga, or bora viper, and this venom, which
she had given to her husband, was the cause of his
DEFORE he had finished, Mores was at him. "I
*-* object to the District Attorney prejudicing the
jury against this gentlewoman, my client."
The objection was not sustained.
"And I except toy honor's ruling," Mores, with
a bulldog look, threw up at the Bench.
Sherwood proceeded. "There, gentlemen is the
crime; there, too, is the motive. To finish the picture
evidence will be produced. ,
As I sat on the verandah, the Pacific before me, I
could see the picture, the frame as well — the amber
panoply of the bench, the fabulous beasts that
climbed the fluted columns on the walls and the court
room, high ceiled, close packed, filled with spectators
who had begged and badgered their way. there. For
it is always great fun to see a woman tried for her
life. Yet when you have known her, or known of
her, when she has happened to be one of the super
select whose names are recorded as "Among those
present," what more could any one decently ask.'
But public sentiment is a wave that thinks, thinks
again, changes its mind. At the opening everybody
knew that the prisoner was guilty. As the trial pro
ceeded no one was quite so sure.
There was a reason for that. On the stand, ser
vants and experts succeeded each other. Among the
experts, some testified that the venom of the bora
viper leaves no traces and that reagents employed in
the autopsy had determined only slight discolorations
superiiKhicible as well by natural causes as the re
verse. Of the servants, one told of finding the body
and of going to the defendant who was in her room,
the door barred and bolted. That was at eight in the
morning. Already it had been shown that ' Caxton
had died at midnight.
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WHERE was the defendant at that time? It was
VV Mores who asked the question. It was the
prisoner who answered it. Bending to her, Mores
had asked her ,to take the stand. .'■■
«-. < The move, wholly unexpected, unusual, almost ex
ceptional in murder cases, created an impression that
was excellent, one that increased when, hesitant and
abashed at first, but presently with lifted eyes and in
a clear, level voice, she testified in her own behalf.
In the direct, she denied of course that she had killed
her husband, denied that she had ever contemplated
such a thing, adding that tiiough she had wanted to
leave him, it was not for the reasons advanced but be
cause 1 she was '•" afraid of him and that, at ( the hour
when it was shown he had
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