Every man, however, is guilty at some time or other in his life of a breach of
principle; and once, though only once, in his professional experience, Jerry
Stokes, like the rest of us, gave way to temptation. To err is human; Jerry
erred by attending a capital trial in Kingston court-house. The case was one
that aroused immense attention at the time in the Dominion. A young lawyer at
Napanee, it was said, had poisoned his wife to inherit her money, and public
feeling ran fierce and strong against him. From the very first, this dead set of
public opinion brought out Jerry Stokes' sympathy in the prisoner's favor. The
crowd had tried to mob Ogilvy — that was the man's name — on his way from his
house to jail, and again on his journey from Napanee to Kingston assizes. Men
shook their fists angrily in the face of the accused; women surged around with
deep cries, and strove to tear him to pieces. The police with difficulty
prevented the swaying mass from lynching him on the spot. Jerry Stokes, who was
present, looked on at these irregular proceedings with a disapproving eye. Most
unconstitutional, to dismember a culprit by main force, without form of trial,
instead of handing him over in due course of law to be properly turned off by
the appointed officer!
So when the trial came, Jerry Stokes, in defiance of established etiquette, took
his stand in court, and watched the progress of the case with profound interest.
The public recognized him, and nudged one another, well pleased. Farmers had
driven in with their wagons from the townships. All Ontario was agog. People
stared at Jerry, and then at the prisoner. "Stokes is looking out for him!" they
chuckled in their satisfaction. "He's got no chance. He'll never get off. The
hangman's in waiting!"
The suspected man took his place in the dock. Jerry Stokes glanced across at him
— rubbed his eyes — thought it curious. "Well, I never saw a murderer like him
in my born days afore," Jerry philosophized to himself...