Simon meets with Mr. MacKenzie, curious to find out how he managed to save Grace from the death sentence. MacKenzie explains that the Grace-McDermott case was dumped into his lap by a colleague who said, “Everyone knows you’ll lose, because there’s no doubt as to their guilt; but it will be the style in which you lose that will count.” The two discuss Grace’s amnesia, and MacKenzie advises Simon that “criminals will read about themselves endlessly, if given the chance. They are as vain in that way as authors.”
The most noteworthy aspect of this passage is the way MacKenzie links authors and criminals; this comment effectively belittles Grace completely. Furthermore, MacKenzie’s comment is ironic, given the fact that he seems particularly self-congratulatory about the way that he handled Grace’s case.
Simon asks specific questions about how MacKenzie argued Grace’s case. MacKenzie says he felt no guilt in “destroy[ing] the reputation of the unfortunate Montgomery woman,” who was found to be pregnant at the time of her death based on an autopsy. He also explains how he handled the slippery question of who was wearing whose shirt, trying his best to pin some blame on Jeremiah. Finally, he says, he did his best to absolve Grace despite her insistence on wearing Nancy’s clothes at the trial and the fact that she “had muddied the trail considerably” by telling three different versions of her story—one at her arrest, one at the inquest, and one at the trial and in her confession.
MacKenzie’s defense of Grace relies primarily on a smear campaign against Nancy, which ultimately uses the same logic employed by McDermott: Nancy was a “slut,” so she deserved to die. The fact that Grace has already told three different versions of her story puts the version she is currently telling Dr. Jordan in question—is it an amalgamation of her three previous stories, or a new version entirely? Despite Grace’s young age at the time of her trial, it is difficult not to read some sense of guilt into the fact that she was unable to give a consistent account of the murders.
Simon then questions MacKenzie about Mrs. Moodie’s account of Grace. MacKenzie’s evasive answers make Simon realize that MacKenzie likely invented the idea of Grace being haunted by a pair of eyes; he wonders “what other parts of [Moodie’s] narrative were due to MacKenzie’s own flamboyant tastes as a raconteur.”
Simon’s realization reveals that MacKenzie is just as vain as he believes Grace and other criminals to be. Though Simon does not point it out, the fact that Mrs. Moodie is blamed for being an exaggerated storyteller is grossly unfair, given that the person who was actually manipulating Grace’s experiences was MacKenzie.
Finally, Simon confesses to an unshakeable feeling that Grace is lying to him. MacKenzie responds that “the stories [Grace] told should ought never to be subjected to the harsh categories of Truth and Falsehood. They belong in another realm altogether.” MacKenzie insists that Grace is trying to keep Simon wrapped up in her story because she has fallen in love with him. He then claims that Grace was “besotted” with him at the time of her trial, and he proceeds to make lascivious comments about her; Simon struggles to hide his rage at MacKenzie’s “depraved” language. Still, he wonders, “What has Grace really been thinking about him, as she sewed and recounted?”
Simon cannot rid himself of his feeling of possessiveness towards Grace, suggesting that Grace’s initial description of Simon as “a collector” was accurate. The passage also shows that, down to a person, all the men who have been designated to protect Grace and represent her interests—her lawyer, her doctors, the prison guards, her employers, her father—have betrayed her by sexually harassing or assaulting her in some way. The scale of the abuse that Grace has faced likens the pervasiveness of possessive patriarchal views to a kind of corruption.
MacKenzie concludes by saying that he was able to use “several strong petitions” to help commute Grace’s death sentence. He explains: “By that time the death sentence had been pronounced against both of them and the trial had been closed, since it was thought unnecessary to go into the details of the second case.” He maintains that if she had been tried for Nancy’s murder, Grace would have been hanged. “But in your opinion,” Simon says, “she was innocent. “No,” MacKenzie replies. “In my opinion, she was guilty as sin.”
The fact that Mr. Kinnear’s murder was tried but Nancy’s was not is hugely significant, because it suggests that the public was more concerned about the death of a gentleman (even one who was, in life, something of a social outcast) than a pregnant woman. This shows how deeply the justice system disempowers women, and MacKenzie’s assertion that Grace would have hanged if Nancy’s murder had been tried suggests that justice was never served Nancy.