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Summary

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Trock and Shadow walk warily under the bridge by the tenement where Garth lives with his old father, Esdras, and his fifteen-year-old sister, Miriamne. Trock is just released from prison, where he served a sentence for his part in a murder for which Romagna was electrocuted. Judge Gaunt, who presided over the trial when Romagna was convicted, is said to be mad and to be roaming the country telling people that the trial was unfair. A college professor also begins an investigation of the old murder trial. Trock comes to the tenement district to see Garth, who witnessed the murder that Trock really committed. Garth did not testify at the trial, and Trock wants to warn him never to tell what he saw.

Trock threatens to kill Garth if he talks. Miriamne knows nothing about her brother’s part in this crime, but after she hears Trock threaten her brother, she questions him and learns a little about the killing. Miriamne loves Garth, but she knows that his silence about the murder is wrong. Old Esdras watches and comforts his two children.

To the same tenement district comes Mio and his friend, Carr. Mio is seventeen, and he learns that somewhere in the tenements lives a man who knows that Romagna is innocent. Mio and Miriamne see each other on the street and fall in love. Knowing that he has to speak to Miriamne, Mio sends Carr away. When Miriamne hears Mio’s full name, Bartolemeo Romagna, she tells him that he must go away and never see her again, for Miriamne knows then that Mio is the son of the man who died for the murder Trock committed. Mio tells Miriamne that he was four years old when his father was electrocuted and that he lives only to prove his father’s innocence.

While the lovers are talking, Shadow and Trock appear on the street, and Miriamne hides Mio in the shadow so that the two men cannot see him. The gangsters are looking for Judge Gaunt in order to silence him. The judge also comes to the tenement, and Garth, meeting him, makes the crazed man go to Esdras’s apartment for safety. Shadow, however, wants no part in killing the judge. As he leaves, Trock sends two henchmen after Shadow to kill him. Mio sees the shooting. Feeling that he came to the right place to learn the truth of the old killing, he waits.

In Esdras’s room the judge awakens, refreshed and normal once more. Realizing where he is and what he did, the judge asks Garth and Esdras to say nothing of his mad claims that Romagna’s trial was unfair. The judge does not want the case to be reopened any more than does Trock. Esdras offers to guide Judge Gaunt partway back to his home.

After the two old men leave, Mio knocks on the door. He was directed to Garth’s home by neighbors. He is bewildered at the sight of Miriamne until she explains that Garth is her brother. She asks Mio to leave, but first she wants him to tell her that he loves her. Garth angrily interrupts the lovers and orders Mio to leave. As Mio prepares to go, Judge Gaunt and Esdras return, forced to turn back by driving sleet. Mio recognizes the judge and begins questioning him and Garth about the trial. Garth’s story is that he did not witness the murder for which Mio’s father died. Judge Gaunt insists that Romagna was guilty. Mio points out that evidence at the trial was biased because his father was an anarchist. The judge says that if he thought the trial unjust, he would have allowed a retrial.

The steady denials of Garth and Judge Gaunt nearly break Mio’s spirit. Suddenly Trock enters the apartment. Mio grows more suspicious. Then Shadow comes to the door. The sight of the henchman he thought dead terrifies Trock. Shadow was shot, but he lives long enough to accuse Trock of his murder. After Shadow dies, Judge Gaunt again becomes deranged. He thinks he is in court, and Mio tricks him into admitting that Romagna was an anarchist and as such should have been put to death. When Trock threatens to kill them all, Mio knows that he is near the end of his search.

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(The entire section is 1,921 words.)