THE trial was concluded on the
twenty-sixth of August, so that the condemned criminal had only about
eleven weeks to live. I am unable to say that he faced death well. The
wretched man begged abjectly for mercy, and to every one who went within
conversing distance he protested his innocence, and daily recited varying
explanations of the death of his victims.
There was a "religious" character in
the settlement named Nathan Larkins, who professed to have been a local
preacher in the old land before emigrating to Canada. He made an effort to
"carry the Gospel," as he put it, to the doomed manís cell. To him the
murderer made a profession of conversion. Upon every possible occasion
thereafter the old preacher loved to refer to Wasby as a "brand plucked
from the burniní."
The night before the fatal
thirteenth of November Nathan spent with the prisoner, and after he had
left, in the early morning, the officers entered the cell and prepared the
prisoner for the scaffold.
Wasby, it seems, had never quite
given up hope of a reprieve. He fancied that his professed conversion
might help him. When, however, he realised that there was no chance for
him, he broke forth into the wildest fury.
The horrified guards did what they
could to quiet him, and spoke as kindly as possible under the
circumstances. One of them ventured the remark that, if he were innocent,
as he claimed, he need not fear death.
"Innocent, did you say!" shouted the
frantic man. "Innocent!" and he laughed hideously. "No, Iím not innocent!
Iím only sorry I did not crush the life out of the other brat too! If I
had got him into my clutches in the courtroom when I asked to kiss him,
Iíd have made short work of him."
As he gradually grew calmer, the
guards, wishing to induce him to confess, encouraged him to continue.
"Yes," said Wasby, at last, "I had
been on a spree. And when I was alone in the bush, choppiní, I got to
thinkiní oí hell, and the devil himself came to me in the form of a black
man and urged me to kill Colin, and my wife, and the other children. I
asked him how I would do it. He told me to sharpen some hardwood stakes
and dry them in the shanty till the time came. He actually held the stakes
for me while I sharpened them, and it was with one of those stakes that I
killed the family. The devil in the form of a black man visited me every
day and urged me to it, so that at last I resolved to do as he said.
"When I returned from the bush for
breakfast that morniní, my wife had overslept herself and was still in
bed. I flew into a rage, and the devil seemed to take possession oí me. My
poor wife was soon done for, and I started in on the children. By the time
I finished each child, I grew more sick and shaky, and when Colinís turn
had come I could hardly stand. I donít know why I didnít take him first,
Iím sure. He looked into my face and begged me not to kill him. Then I was
clean stuck. I sat down a minute. When I came to myself, Colin was gone.
"I set the shanty on fire, thinkiní
the bodies would be burned, and there would be no evidence agin me. Then I
hurried towards the bush, so nobody passiní could see me. By and by I came
back and the shanty was pretty well burned, but the bodies didnít burn. So
I threw them into the cellar. But first, I drew their hands several times
down the charred wall, to make people think they had tried to fight their
way out of the place."
After a magistrate had been called
and this confession had been written down, the sheriff ordered the
execution to proceed. When it was all over and the doctor pronounced the
body to be dead, it was cut down. I must record that it was rudely seized
by the mob and hurriedly drawn and quartered. This dreadful act was of
course perpetrated to show the popular contempt of the horrible crime.