The defense next calls Josie Mansfield. Spectators, jurymen, lawyers, the judge all watch the veiled woman as she rises from her seat and walks slowly to the witness box. “Mrs. Mansfield’s dress was rather décolleté,” a World reporter torn between titillation and scandalization will recount in the next day’s paper. “Her thin muslin over-shirt set off her plump shoulders. The region that laryngitis attacks was only covered by a heavy gold chain and an amulet or cross. She had heavy earrings of a blue color. A high black hat, surmounted by a blue feather, gave her what printers might call a ‘bold-face-extended’ look. A heavy wisp of hair hung free from among her braids. A black lace shawl was cast loosely over her shoulders. On her arms were heavy gold bracelets, and on her hands violet-colored gloves.” Josie lifts her veil to acknowledge the judge and the jury; all in the courtroom lean forward to see the face of the woman at the heart of the drama that has sent one man to the grave and has put another on a path that might end at the gallows.

“On the 6th of last January,” defense counsel John Townsend asks, “were you engaged in any proceedings in the Yorkville Police Court?”

“Yes, sir, a libel suit against Mr. Fisk,” Josie responds in a soft voice. “The proceedings were commenced some time in November, I believe. I was in court on the 6th of January. Colonel Fisk was not there. Mr. Stokes was there. On that day I was very ill. I left the court about two o’clock, in company with my cousin.”

“When had you prior to that time seen Mr. Fisk?”

“About three weeks before.”


“At my own house.”

“Was the interview brought about through his agency?”

“He wrote me a note asking for an interview.”

Townsend hands her a note; Josie identifies it as the one in question. Townsend starts to read the note but the prosecution objects and Judge Ingraham sustains.

“When did you receive that note?”

“About the 15th of December. Colonel Fisk called on me about half past ten o’clock that night.”

“Did he at that interview make any threats against Stokes?”

“He said that unless I returned to him he should kill Mr. Stokes.”

The spectators whisper excitedly; Judge Ingraham glowers at them.

“Did he at that time exhibit any pistol?” Townsend asks.

“He did. It was a handsome pistol, silver mounted, with a pearl handle. I took it in my hand and examined it.”

“Did you communicate what Mr. Fisk said, to the prisoner, Stokes?”

“I did. A day or two afterward I told Mr. Stokes that Mr. Fisk had called upon me to see if I would not release him from that case in the Police Court, and promised to give me all the money I was suing him for, but I told him I would not release him unless he would publicly acknowledge that King’s affidavit was a fraud and a libel. He said that as far as he personally was concerned he did not care so much, but there were so many people involved that he could not make such a statement. I refused to withdraw the suit unless he would acknowledge that I was in the right. He said then that I must bear the consequences. I said, ‘What?’ He drew his revolver and said, ‘I shall shoot Stokes.’ I said, ‘Oh, no, you won’t do anything like that.’ He said, ‘Well, you will see. There will be blood shed before you get through. You better release me. I beg of you not to appear against me again.’ I said, ‘I most assuredly shall, because I shall be vindicated in this affair.’ Mr. Fisk remained about half an hour. No one else was present. When he spoke of shooting Stokes, he spoke in a very decided manner, as if he meant to do what he said.”

“Did you give Mr. Stokes any advice at the time you made this statement to him?”

“I told him he should be more careful than he had been. I knew what a dangerous man Fisk was. He had, prior to that time, made use of threats nearly every time he came to my house after we separated.”

“State what you said in regard to what Colonel Fisk said in reference to the disposal of Eaton.”

The reference to the assault on Dorman Eaton stirs the crowd as it had done during the opening remarks of the defense. It also moves the prosecution to object. Judge Ingraham overrules.

Townsend rephrases: “Did you ever state to Stokes at any time what Colonel Fisk had said in reference to his being disposed of in the same way that Eaton had been?”

“Yes, sir.”

“What did you tell him?”

“I had already told him what had been done to Eaton, and I told him how easily it could be done to him.”

Judge Ingraham asks for clarification: “Fisk told you, and you told that to Stokes?”

“Yes, sir.”

“What else did you say to Mr. Stokes?”

“That Mr. Fisk said that he and Gould and another party had arranged to attack Mr. Eaton. I told Mr. Stokes that he should be very careful of himself, that Mr. Eaton would be disposed of next day. I told him this because he doubted Mr. Fisk’s power.”

Townsend resumes the defense’s questioning: “When you saw a pistol in Fisk’s possession about the 15th of December, had you seen one prior to that time in his possession?”

“Yes, sir.”

“On how many occasions?”


“Was any person present at any time when Fisk showed these besides yourself?”

“Yes, sir.”


“My cousin, Mrs. Williams.”

The defense concludes its questioning of Josie, and Townsend takes his seat. District Attorney Garvin rises and approaches the witness to conduct the cross-examination. “You say you saw him have a pistol on several different occasions?” he asks her, regarding Fisk. “Was it always the same pistol?”

“I think so.”

“How long do you speak of?”

“Ever since we came from Jersey City in 1868.”

“How many pistols did you see him have?”

“I should suppose eight or ten.”

“Do you know of his carrying pistols, or did he always leave them at home?”

“He carried them, but not always. He carried them on several occasions—on Black Friday, for instance, he carried a pistol for a long time. And when we went up to Albany on the Susquehanna business.”

“Do you know whether he carried a pistol on other occasions?”

“Yes, sir, when we were in Jersey City, and when we went away traveling—about the month I left him.”

“What month was that?”

“September 1870.”

“How long did you say you had been acquainted with Stokes?”

“Since February 1869.”

“And with Fisk?”

“Since February 1867.”

“How long had you resided in that house?”

“Three years the first day of that month.”

“Was that the house where you say you had the conversation with Colonel Fisk?”

“Yes, sir.”

“On this day of the examination”—before Judge Bixby in the Yorkville court—“did you leave anybody at your house except the servants?”

“No, sir, the house was closed that day, and when I came home I had a terrible headache—terrible headache. No one called that afternoon except beggars, no visitors that afternoon at all.”

“When did you first hear of the shooting?”

“Not until between five and six o’clock.”

“How did you hear of it?”

“A newspaper reporter came to the house for intelligence, and my cousin went to the door. She came and told me of it. I did not believe it then.”

“Have you ever seen the prisoner since that day?”

“Never until today.”

“Did you see Fisk after the shooting, and before his death?”

“No, sir.”

“Did you see him after his death?”

“No, sir.”

The district attorney indicates that he has no more questions, and Josie steps down.

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