The Betrayal of John Fordham
My name is John Fordham, and I am thirty-four years of age. So far as I can judge I am at present of sound mind, though sadly distraught, and my memory is fairly clear, except as to the occurrences of a certain terrible night in December two years ago, which are obscured by a black cloud which I have striven in vain to pierce. These occurrences, and the base use to which they have been turned by an enemy who has made my life a torture, have brought me to a pass which will cause me presently to stand before the world as a murderer. No man accuses me. It is I who accuse myself of the horrible crime, though I call God to witness that I know not how I came to do it, save that it must have been done in self-defense. But who will believe me in the face of the damning evidence which I afterwards found in my possession—and who will believe that when the fatal deed was done I did not see the features of the man I killed, and did not know who he was? My protestations will be regarded as weak inventions, and will be received with incredulity—as probably I should receive them were another man in my place, and I his judge. It is the guiltiest persons who most loudly proclaim their innocence, and I shall be classed among them.
Am I, then, weary of life that I deliberately place myself in deadly peril, and invite the last dread sentence of the law to be passed upon me? In one sense, yes. Not a day passes that my torturer does not present himself to sting and threaten me and aggravate my sufferings. My nights are sleepless; even when exhausted nature drives me into a brief stupor my fevered brain is crowded with frightful images and visions. So appalling are these fancies that there is a danger of my being driven mad. Death is preferable.
And yet, but a few moments before I committed the crime, I was looking forward hopefully to a life of peace and love with a dear and noble woman who sacrificed her good name for me, and whom I promised to marry when I was freed from a curse which had clung to me for years. The night was cold, the snow was falling, but there was joy in my heart, and I walked along singing. Great God! my heart throbs with anguish as I think of the heaven which might been mine had not cruel fate suddenly dashed the cup of happiness from my lips. But it is useless to repine; I yield because it is forced upon me. One consoling thought is mine. The dear woman I love with a love as true and sincere as ever beat in the heart of man, will turn to me with pity, will visit me in the prison to which I go of my own accord, and in the solemn farewell we shall bid one another will extend her hands and forgive me for the wrong I have done her and our child.