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The Death House
by [?]

In the early forenoon, we were on our way by train “up the river” to Sing Sing, where, at the station, a line of old-fashioned cabs and red-faced cabbies greeted us, for the town itself is hilly.

The house to which we had been directed was on the hill, and from its windows one could look down on the barracks-like pile of stone with the evil little black-barred slits of windows, below and perhaps a quarter of a mile away.

There was no need to be told what it was. Its very atmosphere breathed the word “prison.” Even the ugly clutter of tall- chimneyed workshops did not destroy it. Every stone, every grill, every glint of a sentry’s rifle spelt “prison.”

Mrs. Godwin was a pale, slight little woman, in whose face shone an indomitable spirit, unconquered even by the slow torture of her lonely vigil. Except for such few hours that she had to engage in her simple household duties, with now and then a short walk in the country, she was always watching that bleak stone house of atonement.

Yet, though her spirit was unconquered, it needed no physician to tell one that the dimming of the lights at the prison on the morning set for the execution would fill two graves instead of one. For she had come to know that this sudden dimming of the corridor lights, and then their almost as sudden flaring-up, had a terrible meaning, well known to the men inside. Hers was no less an agony than that of the men in the curtained cells, since she had learned that when the lights grow dim at dawn at Sing Sing, it means that the electric power has been borrowed for just that little while to send a body straining against the straps of the electric chair, snuffing out the life of a man.

To-day she had evidently been watching in both directions, watching eagerly the carriages as they climbed the hill, as well as in the direction of the prison.

“How can I ever thank you, Professor Kennedy,” she greeted us at the door, keeping back with difficulty the tears that showed how much it meant to have any one interest himself in her husband’s case.

There was that gentleness about Mrs. Godwin that comes only to those who have suffered much.

“It has been a long fight,” she began, as we talked in her modest little sitting-room, into which the sun streamed brightly with no thought of the cold shadows in the grim building below. “Oh, and such a hard, heartbreaking fight! Often it seems as if we had exhausted every means at our disposal, and yet we shall never give up. Why cannot we make the world see our case as we see it? Everything seems to have conspired against us–and yet I cannot, I will not believe that the law and the science that have condemned him are the last words in law and science.”

“You said in your letter that the courts were so slow and the lawyers so–“

“Yes, so cold, so technical. They do not seem to realise that a human life is at stake. With them it is almost like a game in which we are the pawns. And sometimes I fear, in spite of what the lawyers say, that without some new evidence, it–it will go hard with him.”

“You have not given up hope in the appeal?” asked Kennedy gently.

“It is merely on technicalities of the law,” she replied with quiet fortitude, “that is, as nearly as I can make out from the language of the papers. Our lawyer is Salo Kahn, of the big firm of criminal lawyers, Smith, Kahn

“Conine,” mused Kennedy, half to himself. I could not tell whether he was thinking of what he repeated or of the little woman.

“Yes, the active principle of hemlock,” she went on. “That was what the experts discovered, they swore. In the pure state, I believe, it is more poisonous than anything except the cyanides. And it was absolutely scientific evidence. They repeated the tests in court. There was no doubt of it. But, oh, he did not do it. Some one else did it. He did not–he could not.”