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OVER the hill from Galt, in the county of Waterloo, lies North Dumfries. The road that climbs the hill sweeps round in a big curve on the other side, as it enters the alley. Up a lane, leading from this valley road, stood a little white farmhouse, with a big unpainted barn near by. It was screened from the main road by a clump of trees, although the house stood in open ground with its door fronting on an orchard, its kitchen window opening on a cornfield. The woodpile loomed up at the end of the house nearest the barn. Rain-barrels stood in a row against the house. Milking pans shone in the sunlight. A dog dozed in the lane. Chickens scratched and pecked, and lazily fluffed their feathers and settled in the dust. It was a hot morning August 9th, 1897. Out of the house stepped a woman. She was a beauty. The freshness of girlhood had been supplanted by the charm of full womanhood. Her complexion was pale pink and white. Her big eyes were laughing and merry. A tot toddled after her, yawning drowsily, then turned back indoors. The woman shaded her eyes and looked toward the barn.
The shrill squeals of an angry pig rang out. A man's gruff voice sounded, and then around the corner of the barn came Anthony Orr, the farmer, with a big sow in his waggon.
"Going, Tony?" called the woman.
"Yep!" shouted Tony Orr. "Back in a couple of hours."
He drove away with his nine-year-old son, Norman. A moment later the hired boy, Jim Allison, appeared with two cows, and started them down the lane. They were to go to the Barrie farm near by. The woman watched her husband until the bend in the road hid him from view. She saw the Allison boy in the lane with the cows. She began to sing softly, so as not to disturb her two children Maggie, aged ten, and a-year-old baby, still asleep upstairs. Half an hour passed.
Two days before, a buggy, with an easy-going horse, had come up the lane. A stout, jolly-faced man had alighted, and had hitched his horse and had sat chatting and laughing with the handsome woman. They seemed to know and understand one another well. The man had entered his buggy and gone away, as he had come, alone. He was nowhere in sight on this morning, although he was half expected. The woman had been sitting with dreamy eyes and gentle smile, her hands clasped and lying idly in her lap. She was a pretty picture in the sunlight. Tony Orr had reason to be proud of his wife. There had been gossip of her fondness for travel and for clever companions. There even had been a tale of an elopement and a penitent return to Tony's arms and forgiveness. Neighbours had known of men callers at the white farmhouse. But Tony said all was well, and on the Orr farm that meant all was well. The woman sat still in the sunlight.
Two hours later Tony Orr returned. The farm boy, Jim Allison, was standing at the side gate of the house fence, laughing.
"What's the matter?" asked Orr.
"Oh, nothing," said Allison, laughing all the louder.
"What's the matter?" demanded Orr.
"Oh, nothing," laughed Allison.
"What's up?" roared Orr.
"Your wife's gone," said Allison.
The baby was lying on the front steps. The little girl, Maggie, was sitting on the porch. Orr hurried to the kitchen. The breakfast dishes had not been touched. Orr ran out of the house, and saw Harry Blair, an agricultural implement dealer from Galt, just getting. out of his buggy. Harry Blair was stout and jolly faced.
"My wife's gone!" shouted Orr.
"Gone! Gone where?" exclaimed the disappointed Blair.
Orr and Blair searched for her, and then got into Blair's buggy and drove to Galt, thinking she might have gone with Weldon Sidney Trevelyan, a medical student who was spending the summer in Galt, and who had been calling on her. They found Trevelyan, and he knew nothing of the woman. Orr returned home, and organised a search for his wife. The authorities were notified.
"Many believed there had been an elopement," says Murray. "Mrs. Orr was good-looking, a great favourite with men, but had a reputation. Her maiden name was Emma Borland. Her parents were well-to-do and lived at Bright. She was thirty-seven years old, and was born in Innerkip. She was first married to John Arnott, of Innerkip, who died when she was twenty-two, and three years later she married Anthony Orr, to whom she bore three children. To her children she was a loving, careful mother. To her husband she was said to be an indifferent wife. About two years previous to this she had run away with a hired man named Mulholland, but her husband caught her and her two children at Niagara Falls, and took them home again. Tony Orr was a nervous, excitable man, who had trouble with other men on account of their frequent calls on his wife. A week passed, with no trace of the wife's whereabouts.
"At first, before traces of blood were found, the elopement theory vied with the suicide theory. On the day before Mrs. Orr disappeared, Tony Orr's father was buried. Mrs. Orr attended the funeral, and some of the Orr family treated her coldly. The Orrs were an old family of good standing. On the way home from the funeral Mrs. Orr remarked that 'she was no use and guessed she'd get out of here.' This remark was the basis for the suicide talk.
"I went to the Orr farm. The boy Allison and the medical student Trevelyan had been held in Galt, and Harry Blair, the agricultural implement agent, was under surveillance. I looked the house over, a one and a half story white brick house with a frame kitchen. It was situated in a tract of country that, owing to the swamps and marshes in which it abounds, is most desolate. About two hundred yards from the house was a swamp or marsh of about one hundred acres, and above the wet and rank grass and weeds and thick soil grew almost impenetrable shrubs and trees. In this swamp was an excavation eighteen inches wide and six feet long and eighteen inches deep. It was newly dug, and clearly was an unfinished grave. I visited it in the night, and carefully took from the upturned surface the print of a man's foot, a precise clue to the digger of the grave. In order to get this, I turned back the overturned earth after digging under it so as not to break its surface and destroy the footprint I knew must be there. I took this to my hotel in Galt, unknown to anyone in the affair.
"I returned to the Orr house. A picket fence separated the patch of garden from the corn patch adjoining the house. One of the pickets of this fence was gone. The paling mark was not of long exposure. I saw this was on a line between the house and the swamp, with the corn patch lying between. One of the furrows in this corn patch was raised slightly. John Orr, Tony's brother, poked it with his stick. Six inches beneath the surface lay Mrs. Orr, face down, buried amid the corn within thirty feet of her house. That put an end to elopement or suicide theories. When I saw the half-dug grave in the swamp I knew there had been murder. The grave in the corn patch was but temporary. The murderer intended to hide the body for ever in the swamp.
"Back to Galt I went. Trevelyan proved an absolute alibi. Harry Blair, agitated over the whole affair, was not at the farmhouse when the deed was done, and had nothing to do with it. Tony Orr was five miles away at a neighbour's, with his son and the sow. Allison I went to see this boy. I had his old shoe, and it fitted the footprint by the grave in the swamp. He looked almost a freak. He was about seventeen years old, big for his age, and tremendously stocky in his build. His bow legs were big and muscular. His hands and feet were enormous. His shoulders were broad, his neck was thick, his arms were long and powerful. His features reminded me of the features of a frog. The forehead was low and retreating, and the face was very full at the sides. The hair was brown, cut close, and thc eyes were a greenish brown large, watery eyes, uneasy, shifting, catlike. The mouth was very large, and the lips were full and seemed to simper, giving the face a cat's expression. He walked with a peculiar, rolling motion, as if he would have preferred to be on all fours. He wore heavy, clod shoes, blue jeans, a calico shirt, and a faded, slouch hat pulled well over his eyes.
"I sat down and faced this boy.
"'What do you know of this murder?' I said.
"'Nothing,' he answered, with a grin.
"'Tell me where you were on that morning,' said I.
"'I left Orr's, with two cows, about 7.20,' he said. 'I got to Barrie's farm about eight o'clock, and I left there about 8.50 and got back to Orr's about 9.40. When I got back Mrs. Orr was gone.'
"'How did you know she was gone?'
"'She was not anywhere around,' said the boy.
"'Where is your shot gun?' I asked.
"'Just before I left with the cows, Mrs. Orr asked me to show her the gun, and she asked me how it was used, and I explained it, and then put it back and went on with the cows,' he lied glibly.
"His gun, which always was kept in the house, was found hidden in the hay-mow in the barn. It had been discharged. There were blood-stains on it.
"'Allison,' I said slowly, 'you killed Mrs. Orr.'
"He started up, white as flour, shaking like a man with ague. I waited for his confession. He mumbled, hesitated, and sat down and grinned. For four hours I worked with him. He grinned and lied.
"An idea previously had occurred to me. Allison's father, Alex Allison, was city scavenger of Galt. The father had seen the boy alone. That night the father was followed. It was before the finding of the body was generally known. The father had gone to the swamp to finish, for his son, the half-dug grave. The boy had told him of it.
"'Allison,' I said to the boy, 'your father says you dropped your knife at the grave in the swamp.'
"'No I didn't, for I left it when I went '
"He stopped. It was on the tip of his tongue trembling, quivering, almost out.
"'That's enough,' I said.
"Some newspapers declaimed against my examination of this boy, and talked of a sweat-box system, and asserted the boy's innocence. In due time their mistake was revealed.
"The evidence was overwhelming when it all was collected. There was no need to use the footprint by the grave. Allison was proved by neighbours and folk on the road to have the exclusive opportunity to do the deed. His blood-stained gun had been fired, and the empty cartridge found in it was one he had taken from a box in the house. John Orr and his family on the next farm had heard a gunshot after Tony left with the sow. Allison had called out Mrs. Orr from the house, shot at her, clubbed her to death, then buried her temporarily in the corn-field, and at night dug the grave in the swamp. He had importuned her, and she refused him, and the murder followed.
"The grand jury found a true bill on November 29th,
and Allison's trial followed at once. Chief Justice
"Smiling serenely, Jim Allison went up to his death. He mounted the scaffold unaided at eight o'clock on a raw, snowy morning. He shook hands politely with the guards, the hangman, and the minister, waited quietly while the black cap and noose were adjusted, stepped on to the trap at 8.?1, and dropped into eternity.
"Allison had learned to read and write a little in his six months in a cell, and he had scrawled laboriously the following on a piece of paper:
"'I am sorry for my crime. I did it out of ill-will. I hope those whom I wronged will forgive me, and that no one will turn this up to my people. My sentence is just, and I hope God will have mercy on me.'
"He signed this, and read it to them when they came to take him out and hang him."