“But her greatest freak was seen when th’ Assizes came. Sir, she wouldn’ even go to the trial. She disdained it. An’ when, that mornin’, the judges had driven by her window, same as they drove to-day, what d’ee think she did?
“She began to lay the cloth up in the parlour yonder, an’ there set out the rarest meal, ready for her boy. There was meats, roasted chickens, an’ a tongue, an’ a great ham. There was cheese-cakes that she made after a little secret of her own; an’ a bowl of junket, an inch deep in cream, that bein’ his pet dish; an’ all kind o’ knick-knacks, wi’ grapes an’ peaches, an’ apricots, an’ decanters o’ wine, white an’ red. Ay, sir, there was even crackers for mother an’ son to pull together, with scraps o’ poetry inside. An’ flowers–the table was bloomin’ with flowers. For weeks she’d been plannin’ it: an’ all the forenoon she moved about an’ around that table, givin’ it a touch here an’ a touch there, an’ takin’ a step back to see how beautiful it looked. An’ then, as the day wore on, she pulled a chair over by the window, an’ sat down, an’ waited.
“In those days a capital trial was kept up till late into the night, if need were. By-an’-by she called up her little servin’ gal that was then (she’s a gran’mother now), an’ sends her down to the court-house to learn how far the trial had got, an’ run back with the news.
“Down runs Selina Mary, an’ back with word–
“‘They’re a-summin’-up,’ says she.
“Then Mrs. Pinsent went an’ lit eight candles. Four she set ‘pon the table, an’ four ‘pon the mantel-shelf. You could see the blaze out in the street, an’ the room lit up, wi’ the flowers, an’ fruit, an’ shinin’ glasses–red and yellow dahlias the flowers were, that bein’ the time o’ year. An’ over each candle she put a little red silk shade. You never saw a place look cosier. Then she went back an’ waited: but in half-an-hour calls to Selina Mary agen:
“‘Selina Mary, run you back to the courthouse, an’ bring word how far they’ve got.’
“So the little slip of a maid ran back, and this time ’twas–
“‘Missis, the judge has done; an’ now they’re considerin’ about Master Willie.’
“So the poor woman sat a while longer, an’ then she calls:
“‘Selina Mary, run down agen, an’ as he comes out, tell ‘en to hurry. They must be finished by now.’
“The maid was gone twenty minutes this time. The evenin’ was hot an’ the window open; an’ now all the town that wasn’ listenin’ to the trial was gathered in front, gazin’ cur’ously at the woman inside. She was tittivatin’ the table for the fiftieth time, an’ touchin’ up the flowers that had drooped a bit i’ the bowls.
“But after twenty minutes Selina Mary came runnin’ up the street, an’ fetched her breath at the front door, and went upstairs slowly and ‘pon tip-toe. Her face at the parlour door was white as paper; an’ while she stood there the voices o’ the crowd outside began to take all one tone, and beat into the room like the sound o’ waves ‘pon a beach.
“‘Oh, missis–’ she begins.
“‘Have they finished?’
“The poor cheald was only able to nod.
“‘Then, where’s Willie? Why isn’t he here?’
“‘Oh, missis, they’re goin’ to hang ‘en!’
“Mrs. Pinsent moved across the room, took her by the arm, led her downstairs, an’ gave her a little push out into the street. Not a word did she say, but shut the door ‘pon her, very gentle-like. Then she went back an’ pulled the blind down slowly. The crowd outside watched her do it. Her manner was quite ord’nary. They stood there for a minute or so, an’ behind the blind the eight candles went out, one by one. By the time the judges passed homeward ’twas all dark, only the blind showin’ white by the street lamp opposite. From that year to this she has pulled it down whenever a judge drives by.”