Rodrigues Ottolengui.

A Modern Wizard



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"Waiting for me?" he asked of Mr. Dudley.

"No! I am waiting for a client," was the quiet rejoinder. Mr. Bliss started to speak, but a signal from his partner reminded him of his injunction.

"Strange news in the morning paper," remarked the District Attorney, evidently full of his topic. "That man Medjora, the fellow who poisoned his sweetheart you know, was burned to death trying to escape the detectives. Served him right, only it is a great case missed by us lawyers, eh?"

"Why do you say it served him right?" asked Mr. Bliss, quickly. He still hoped that the Doctor would appear, and it occurred to him instantly, that he might learn something from the prosecution, thus taken unawares, supposing the case to be ended.

"Oh, well!" said the old lawyer, careful of speech by habit rather than because he saw any necessity for caution in the present instance; "had the case come to trial, we had abundant evidence upon which to convict, for Medjora certainly murdered the girl."

"Your are mistaken!" said a clear voice behind them, and as the three men turned and faced Dr. Medjora, the clock struck ten. Without waiting for them to recover from their surprise the Doctor continued: "Mr. District Attorney, I am Emanuel Medjora, the man whom you have just accused of a hideous crime; the murder of a young girl, by making use of his knowledge of medicine. To my mind there can scarcely be a murder more fiendish, than where a physician, who has been taught the use of poisons for beneficent purposes, prostitutes his knowledge to compass the death of a human being; especially of one who loved him." He uttered the last words with a touch of pathos which moved his hearers. Quickly recovering he continued: "Therefore, both as a man, and as a physician, I must challenge you to prove your slanderous statement. I have come here to-day, sir, to surrender myself to you as the law's representative, that I may show my willingness to answer in person the charges which have been made against me. Messrs. Dudley & Bliss here, are my counsel."

The District Attorney was very much astonished. Not only was he amazed to see the man alive, when he had been reported dead, but he was entirely unprepared to find this suspected criminal to be a man of cultured refinement, both of speech and of manner. He was thus, for the moment, more leniently inclined than he would have been, were he alone considering the mass of evidence which his office had already collected against the Doctor. Turning to him therefore he said:

"So you are Dr. Medjora! Well, sir, I am delighted to see you. That you have voluntarily surrendered yourself will certainly tell in your favor. You must pardon my hasty remark. But I thought that you were dead, and – "

"And as you could not hurt the dead, you saw no harm in calling an unconvicted man a murderer. I see!" There was a vein of satirical reproach beneath the polished manner of saying these words, which stung the old lawyer, and restored him at once to his wonted craftiness.

"Perhaps you are right, Doctor, and I ought not to have used the words about you, dead or alive.

Of course, in this office the prisoner is only the accused. Never more than that, even in our thoughts. That is an imperative injunction which I place upon all of my assistants. You see, gentlemen," he addressed them all collectively, with the purpose of bringing the Doctor to the conclusion that he was not specially thinking of him. Thus he prepared to spring a trap. "You see, the District Attorney is a prosecuting officer, but he should never persecute. It is his duty to represent and guard the liberties of the whole community. He should be as jealous of the rights of the accused, as of the accuser. More so, perhaps, for the prisoner stands to an extent alone, whilst the whole commonwealth is against him. And so, Dr. Medjora, if you are an innocent man, as you seem to be, it would be my most pleasing duty to free you from the stigma cast upon you. And should you come to trial, you must believe that the more forcible my arguments may be against you, the more do I espouse your cause, for the more thorough would be your acquittal if you obtained the verdict." Then having, as he thought, led his man away from his defence, he asked quickly, "But tell me, why have you not surrendered before?"

If he hoped to see the Doctor stammer and splutter, seeking for some plausible explanation, he was doomed to disappointment. Dr. Medjora replied at once, ignoring a signal from Mr. Bliss not to speak.

"Mr. District Attorney, I will reply most candidly. Whilst, as you have just said, it is your duty to guard the interests of the accused as well as of the commonwealth, I regret to be compelled to say that such is not your reputation. People say, and I see now that they must be wrong," – the Doctor bowed and smiled most politely, – "but they do say that with you it is conviction at any cost. Thus even an innocent man might well hesitate to withstand the attacks of so eminent and skilful a jurist as yourself. Circumstantial evidence, whilst most reliable when thoroughly comprehended, may sometimes entrap the guiltless. So whilst my blood boiled in anger at the disgraceful charges which were made against me, my innate love of liberty, and my caution, bade me think first. Not satisfied with my own counsel, I deemed it wise to consult legal authority, which I did two days ago. Messrs. Dudley & Bliss advised me to surrender, confident that my innocence will be made so apparent that I do not materially jeopardize my life. In compliance with the understanding entered into two days ago, as these gentlemen will testify, I am at your service."

"But why did you not come here two days ago?"

"Because I had some affairs of a private nature to arrange."

"What about the incident of the fire reported in the papers?"

"Why, I see nothing in that but poor reportorial work. I did not choose to be arrested when I had decided voluntarily to surrender, as such a mischance would have injured my case. I therefore escaped during the confusion. That I was unobserved, and was reported to have perished, is not my fault certainly."

"Very well, Doctor. You have not been indicted, and there is no warrant out for your arrest; still, as you have surrendered, are you willing to be taken to prison?"

"That is what I expect. I am entirely ready."

"May I ask," said Mr. Dudley, addressing the District Attorney, "in view of the fact that our client has voluntarily surrendered himself, that his confinement in prison may be as brief as possible? We claim that the Doctor is an innocent man, deprived of his liberty whilst awaiting trial, through the blundering accusations of a stupid physician. We venture to suggest that common justice demands that his trial should be as soon as possible."

"I shall arrange to have the trial at as early a date as is consistent with my duty to the commonwealth!"

"And to the accused?" interjected Dr. Medjora, with a twinkle in his eye.

"And to the accused, of course," said the old lawyer, with a smile, unwilling to be outdone.

And so Dr. Emanuel Medjora was taken to prison to await his trial, and the public was treated to another sensation through the newspapers.

CHAPTER V.
FOR THE PROSECUTION

In spite of the promises of the District Attorney, several months passed before the great murder trial was commenced. The public at last were delighted to hear that their love for the harrowing details of a celebrated crime was to be satisfied. A few of the newspapers of the sensational stamp announced that they, and they only, would have the fullest accounts, illustrated with life-like portraiture of the accused, the lawyers, the judge, the jury, and the chief witnesses. This promise was so well fulfilled that on the opening day there appeared several alleged portraits of Dr. Medjora, which resembled him about as little as they did one another.

Several days were consumed before the jury was impanelled, and then at length the prosecution opened its case, which was mainly in charge of Mr. George Munson, a newly appointed Assistant District Attorney, the very man of whom Mr. Dudley had spoken, when his partner had bewailed their unfortunate lot, because they had never been intrusted with a criminal case.

Mr. Munson was a rising man. He had attracted attention, and was receiving a reward of merit by his promotion to the office which he now filled. It was hinted somewhere, that his appointment had been largely dependent upon his conduct of that murder case, during which he had shown a wonderful knowledge of chemistry, for one not actually a chemist. And his having charge of this most important case, in which chemical expert testimony seemed likely to play an important part, substantiated the statement.

He was well versed in law, was keen and quick at cross-examination, and merciless in probing the private lives of witnesses, when such action promised to aid his cause. He was not, however, a very brilliant speaker, but it was expected that the District Attorney would himself sum up. Thus the prosecution seemed to be in able hands. Opposed to them were Messrs. Dudley & Bliss, two young, unknown men, and people wondered why the Doctor, reputed to have wealth, had not engaged more prominent counsel.

Mr. Munson's opening speech was not lengthy. He confined himself to a brief statement of his case, summarizing in the most general fashion what he expected to prove; in brief, that Mabel Sloane had died of morphine poisoning, and not of diphtheria, that the poison had been administered by Dr. Medjora, and that his object had been to rid himself of a woman who stood in his path, an obstacle to the advancement of his ambition. Mr. Munson thus avoided the mistake so often made by lawyers, where, following the temptation to make a speech, they tell so much that they weaken their cause, by affording their opponents time to prepare a more thorough defence.

A few witnesses were called to establish in a general way the death of the girl, her place of residence, and such other facts as are essential in the preparation of a case, in order that no legal technicality may be neglected. But as it is manifest that I cannot, in the scope of this narration, give you a full account of the trial, I shall confine myself to compiling from the records just so much of the evidence as shall seem to me likely to attract your interest, and to be necessary to a full comprehension of the Doctor's position, and relation to this supposed crime.

The first important witness, then, was Dr. Meredith, the physician who had aroused suspicion by reporting to the Board of Health that the girl had, in his opinion, died of opium narcosis. It was apparent, when he took the stand, that he was extremely nervous, and disliked exceedingly the position in which he found himself. Indeed it is a very trying predicament for a physician to be called upon to testify in a court of law, unless he is not only an expert in his profession, but also an expert witness. He finds himself confronted by an array of medical and legal experts, all conspiring to disprove his assertions, and to show how little his knowledge is worth. Generally, he has little to gain, whereas he may lose much in the estimation of his patrons by being made to appear ridiculous on the stand.

After taking the oath, Dr. Meredith sat with his eyes upon the floor until Mr. Munson began to question him. Then he looked straight at the lawyer, as though upon him he relied for protection.

"You attended Miss Mabel Sloane in her last illness, I believe?" began

Mr. Munson.

"I did."

"How were you called in to the case?"

"I was called in consultation by Dr. Fisher."

"You were sent for by Dr. Fisher! Then I am to understand that you and he were good friends?"

"The best of friends."

"And are so still?"

"I think so. Yes."

"And Dr. Medjora. Did you know him before your connection with this case?"

"Only slightly."

"Were you present when Miss Sloane died?"

"I was present for half an hour before she died."

"Exactly! And you remained with her until she was actually dead?"

"Yes, sir. I saw her die."

"Of what did she die?"

"I object!" cried Mr. Bliss, springing to his feet and interrupting the prosecution for the first time.

"State your objection," said the Recorder, tersely.

"Your Honor," began Mr. Bliss, "I object to the form of the question. The whole point at issue is contained in it, and I contend that this witness is not qualified to answer. If he were, the trial might end upon his doing so."

"The witness is only expected to testify to the best of his belief," said the Recorder.

"Very true, your Honor. I only wish it to go to the jury in the proper form. If they understand that this witness does not know of what Miss Sloane died, but simply states what he thinks, I shall be perfectly satisfied."

"You may as well modify your question, Mr. Munson," said the Recorder. Thus Mr. Bliss scored a little victory, which at once convinced the older lawyers present that, though young, he would prove to be shrewd to grasp the smallest advantage. His object had evidently been to belittle the value of the answer, before it was made, by thus calling attention so prominently to the fact that Dr. Meredith could not know positively what he was about to charge.

"In your opinion, what caused the death of Miss Sloane?" This was the new question formulated to meet the objection raised.

"She died of morphine poisoning!" replied Dr. Meredith.

"You mean you think she died of morphine poisoning?" interjected Mr.

Bliss.

"Kindly wait until you get the witness before you begin your cross-examination!" said Mr. Munson, with a touch of asperity. Mr. Bliss merely smiled and kept silent, satisfied that he had produced his effect upon the jury.

"Will you state why you conclude that Miss Sloane died of morphine poisoning?" continued Mr. Munson.

"I observed all the characteristic symptoms of morphine narcosis prior to her death, and the nature of the death itself was consistent with my theory."

"Please explain what the symptoms of morphine poisoning are?"

"Cold sweat, slow pulse, stertorous breathing, a gradually deepening coma, contracted pupils, which, however, slowly dilate at the approach of death, which is caused by a paralysis of the respiratory centres."

"Did you observe any of these symptoms in Miss Sloane?"

"Yes. Practically all of them."

"And would these same symptoms occur in any other form of death, except from morphine poisoning?"

"They would not. Of course they do not apply to morphine only. They are generally diagnostic of opium poisoning."

"But morphine is a form of opium, is it not?"

"Yes. It is one of the alkaloids."

"Now, Doctor, one more question. You have testified that you attended this girl in her last illness; as a physician you are familiar with death from diphtheria; you have stated what are the symptoms of morphine, or opium poisoning, and that you observed them in this case; further, that an identical set of symptoms would not occur in any other disease known to you; now, from these facts, what would you say caused the death of Miss Mabel Sloane?"

"I should say that she died of a poisonous dose of some form of opium, probably morphine."

"You may take the witness," said Mr. Munson, as he sat down. Mr. Bliss spoke a word to Doctor Medjora, and then holding a few slips of paper, upon which were notes, mainly suggestions which had been written by the prisoner himself, and passed to his counsel unperceived by the majority of those present, he faced the witness, whose eyes at once sought the floor.

"Doctor," began Mr. Bliss, "you have stated that you are only slightly acquainted with Dr. Medjora. Is that true?"

"I said that I was only slightly acquainted with him prior to my being called to attend Miss Sloane. Of course I know him better now."

"But before the time which you specify, you did not know him?"

"Not intimately."

"Oh! Not intimately? Then you did know him? Now is it not a fact that you and Dr. Medjora were enemies?"

"I object!" exclaimed Mr. Munson.

"I wish to show, your Honor," said Mr. Bliss, "that this witness has harbored a personal spite against our client, and that because of that, his mind was not in a condition to evolve an unprejudiced opinion about the illness of Miss Sloane."

"I do not think that is at all competent, your Honor," said Mr. Munson. "The witness has testified to facts, and even if there were personal feeling, that would not alter facts."

"No, your Honor," said Mr. Bliss, quickly, "facts are immutable. But a prejudiced mind is as an eye that looks through a colored glass. All that is observed is distorted by the mental state."

"The witness may answer," said the Recorder.

At the request of Mr. Bliss the stenographer read the question aloud, and the witness replied.

"Dr. Medjora and myself were not enemies. Certainly not!"

"Had you not had a controversy with him upon a professional point?"

"I had an argument with him, in a debate, just as occurs in all debates."

"Precisely! But was not this argument, as you term it, a discussion which followed a paper which you had read, and in that argument did not Dr. Medjora prove that the whole treatment outlined by you was erroneous, unscientific, and unsound?"

"He did not prove it; he claimed something of the kind!"

"You say he did not prove it. As a result of his argument, was not your paper refused publication by a leading medical journal?"

"I did not offer it for publication."

"I think this is all incompetent, your Honor," said Mr. Munson.

"You may go on," said the Recorder, nodding to Mr. Bliss.

"Is it not customary for papers read before your societies to become the property of the society, and are they not sent by the society to the journal in question?"

"Yes, I believe so."

"Was not your paper sent to the journal as usual, and was it not rejected by the journal?"

"I do not know that it was."

"Well, has your paper been published anywhere?"

"No."

"You said that you were present when Miss Sloane died. Now how did that happen. Were you sent for?"

"No. I had seen the patient with Dr. Fisher during the day, and she seemed to be improving, so much so that Dr. Fisher decided that we need not see her until the next morning. Later I thought this a little unsafe, and so I called during the evening."

"Oh! Dr. Fisher thought she was well enough, but you did not. Was that why you called at night?"

The witness bit his lip with anger at having made this slip.

"I live near, and I thought it would do no harm to call."

"Now when you called, you have stated that you were with her for half an hour before she died. Did she die a half hour after you entered her room?"

"In about half an hour."

"How soon after you saw her, did you suspect that she had been poisoned?"

"Immediately."

"Oh! Immediately! Then of course you made some effort to save her life, did you not? You used some antidotes?"

"It was difficult. At first of course there was merely a suspicion in my mind. I tried to have her drink some strong coffee, but deglutition was almost impossible. This is another evidence of the poison."

"Now, Doctor, be careful. You say that impaired deglutition was due to poisoning. But do you not know that deglutition is most difficult in cases of diphtheria?"

"The patient swallowed very well in the afternoon."

"But if she had grown worse, if the false membrane had increased, would she not have had greater difficulty in swallowing?"

"Yes, but – "

"Never mind the buts. Now, then, when you found that she was too ill to swallow, what else did you do?"

"I injected atropine, and sent for Dr. Fisher."

"Oh! Then you did send for Dr. Fisher?"

"Yes."

"Did he arrive before she died?"

"Yes. About five minutes."

"Did you suggest to him that the patient was dying of poison?"

"I did, but he would not agree with me. Therefore I could not do anything more, as he was the physician in charge."

"Is Dr. Fisher a skilful man?"

"Yes."

"As skilful as you are yourself?"

This was a hard question, but with Dr. Fisher present, only one answer was possible.

"Certainly, but we are all liable to make a mistake."

This was a bad effort to help his cause, for Mr. Bliss quickly interposed.

"Even you are liable to make a mistake, eh?"

"Of course, but in this instance I saw more of the case than Dr.

Fisher did."

"Still, Dr. Fisher was present for several minutes before this girl died, and though you suggested that she had been poisoned, and proposed taking some action to save her from the poison, he disagreed with you so entirely that he made no such effort. Is that right?"

"Well, there was very little that he could have done anyway. It was too late. The drug had gone too far for the stomach-pump to be efficacious; the atropine had had no beneficial result, we had no means of applying a magnetic battery, and no time to get one. Artificial respiration was what I proposed, whilst waiting for a battery, but Dr. Fisher thought it a useless experiment, in presence of the diphtheria. He offered to perform tracheotomy, but as I considered that the respiratory centres had been paralyzed by morphine, I could see no advantage in that."



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