Part 5 out of 8
me, because I fear to anger God."
"And man," added the other, with bitterness. "You fear your father's
wrath far more than Heaven's."
That bolt went home: the unhappy girl did indeed stand in greater terror
of her father than of the sin of perjury; and the idea of affirming upon
oath what she had but a few days before so solemnly denied to him was
filling her with consternation and dismay. Still the picture that had
just been drawn of the ruin that would assuredly befall her Richard,
unless she interposed to save him, had more vivid colors even than that
of Trevethick's anger. Let him kill her, if he would, after the trial
was over, but Richard should go free.
"I will do your bidding, madam," said she, suddenly, "though I perish,
body and soul."
"You say that now, girl, and it's well and bravely said; but will you
have strength to put your words to proof? When I am gone, and there are
none but Richard's foes about you, will you resist their menaces, their
arguments, their cajolements, and be true as steel?"
"I will, I will; I swear it," answered Harry, passionately; "they shall
never turn me from it. But suppose they prevent me from leaving Gethin,
from attending at the trial at all?"
"Well thought of!" answered Mrs. Gilbert, approvingly; "she has some
wits, then, after all, this girl. As for their forbidding you to give
evidence, however, Mr. Weasel, who is Richard's lawyer, will see to
that. You will be subpoenaed as a witness for the defense. You will say,
then, that it was you who opened the strong-box, and took out the notes,
and gave them into Richard's hand."
"But how could I open the letter padlock?"
"Good, again!" answered the other; "you have asked the very question for
which I have brought the answer. Now, listen! Have you access to your
father's watch at times when he does not wear it?"
"Yes; he does not always put it on--never on the day he goes to market,
for instance. He comes back late, you see."
"Just so; and sometimes, perhaps, not altogether sober. Very good. Now,
you once opened that watch from curiosity, and saw a paper in its case
with B N Z upon it. Those letters formed the secret by which the lock
was opened. You tried it, just in fun at first, and found they did. Do
"I do," said Harry.
"You will not forget, then, what you have to say; or shall I
"There is no need," groaned Harry. "I shall remember it forever, be sure
of that, and on my death-bed most of all." With a wearied look on her
wan face, and a heavy sigh, the young girl rose to go. "Good-night,
madam. We need not speak of this again to-morrow, need we?"
"Surely not, child. My mission here is done. The rain is falling still,
and that will be a sufficient excuse for my departure. I had a sick
headache to-night--remember that--but it will be better after a night's
"Do you sleep?" asked Harry, simply. "Ah me, I would that _I_ could
"Of course I do. Is it not necessary for Richard's sake that I should be
well and strong? I could weep all night and fast all day, if I let my
foolish heart have its own will. It is easy enough to grieve at any
time; one has only to think to do that. Sleep, child, sleep, and dream
of him as he will be when you have set him free; then wake to work his
freedom. I will tell him that you will do so. Press your lips to mine,
that I may carry their sweet impress back to him. One moment more. Do
not get your lesson by heart, lest they should doubt you; but hold by
this one sentence, and never swerve from it: 'I gave Richard Yorke the
notes with my own hand.' That is the key which can alone unlock his
prison-door. Good-night, good-night."
MR. ROBERT BALFOUR.
An author of sensitive organization has always a difficulty in treating
the subject of prison life. If he avoids details, the critics do not
ascribe it to delicacy, but to incompetence; if, on the other hand, he
enters into them, they nudge the elbow of the public, and hint that this
particular phase of human experience is his specialty--that he "ought to
know," because he has been "through the mill" himself. This is not kind,
of course; but the expression, "a little more than kin and less than
kind," is exceedingly applicable to the critic in relation to his humble
brother, the author. We will take a middle course, then, and exhibit
only just so much of Cross Key as may be seen in a "justice's visit."
Twenty years ago, the system of treatment of prisoners before trial
incarcerated in her Majesty's jails was not so uniform as it now is. In
some they were permitted few privileges not enjoyed by the convicts
themselves; in others a considerable difference was made between the two
classes. The establishment at Cross Key leaned to the side of
indulgence. Its inmates who were awaiting their trial were allowed to
wear their own clothes; to write letters to their friends without
supervision (though not without the suspicion of it on their own part);
and to mingle together for some hours in a common room, where that
unbroken silence which pervades all our modern Bastiles, and is perhaps
their most terrible feature, was not insisted upon. In this common room
Richard Yorke was sitting on the afternoon following his incarceration.
The principal meal of the day had been just concluded, and himself and
his fellow-guests were brooding moodily over their troubles. The
platters, the block-tin knives, so rounded that the most determined
self-destroyer could never job himself with them into Hades, and the
metal mugs had been removed, and their places on the narrow deal table
were occupied by a few periodicals of a somewhat depressing character,
though "devoted to the cultivation of quiet cheerfulness," and by a
leaden inkstand much too large to be swallowed. The prisoners--upon the
ground, perhaps, of not needing the wings of liberty for any other
purpose--were expected to furnish (from them) their own pens. There were
but half a dozen of these unfortunates; all, with two exceptions, were
of the same type--that of the ordinary agricultural criminal. Ignorant,
slouching, dogged, they might have fired a rick, or killed a keeper, or
even--sacrilegious but unthinking boors--have shot a great man's
pheasant. They did not make use of their privileges of conversation
beyond a muttered word or two, but stared stupidly at the pictures in
the magazines, wondering (as well they might) at the benevolent faces of
the landlords, clergymen, and all persons in authority therein
portrayed, or perhaps not wondering at them at all, but rather pondering
whether Bet and the children had gone into "the House" or not by this
time, or whether the man in the big wig would be hard upon themselves
next Wednesday three weeks.
One of these two exceptions was, of course, our hero, who looked, by
contrast with these poor, simple malefactors, like a being from another
world, a fallen angel, but with the evil forces of his new abode already
gathering fast within him. His capacities for ill, indeed, were ten
times theirs; and the dusky glow of his dark eyes evinced that they were
at work, though they did but ineffectually reflect the hell of hate that
was beginning to be lit within him. It flamed against the whole world of
his fellow-creatures, so mad he was with pride and scorn and rage; his
hand should be against every man henceforth, as theirs was now against
him; his motto, like the _exeunt_ exclamation of the mob in the play,
should be: "Fire, burn, slay!" He was like a spoiled child who for the
first time has received a severe punishment--for a wonder, not wholly
deserved--and who wishes, in his vengeful passion, that all mankind
might have one neck in common with his persecutor, that (forgetting he
is no Hercules) his infant arms might throttle it off-hand. The love
which he still felt for Harry and his mother, far from softening him
toward others, rather increased his bitterness of spirit. They, too,
were suffering wrong and ill-treatment, and needed an avenger. His fury
choked him, so that he had eaten nothing of what had been set before
him, and he now sat leaning with his elbows on the bare boards, staring
with heated eyes at the blank wall before him, and feeding on his own
"This is your first time in quod, I guess, young gentleman," observed a
quiet voice beside him.
Richard started. He had thrown one contemptuous glance upon the company
when they first assembled, and had decided that they possessed no more
interest for him than a herd of cattle; buried in his own sombre
thoughts, he had lost consciousness of their very presence, as of that
of the warder, who was pacing up and down the room with monotonous
tread. But now that his attention was thus drawn to his next neighbor,
he saw that he differed somewhat from the rest; not that he was more
intelligent-looking--for, indeed, there was a reckless brutality in his
expression which the others lacked--but there was a certain resolution
and strength of will in his face, which at least told of power. But it
was the tone of voice, which, coming from such a man, though it was a
gruff voice enough in itself, had something conciliatory and winning in
it, that chiefly attracted Richard. Perhaps, too, the phrase "young
gentleman" flattered his vanity. We can not throw off all our weaknesses
at a moment's notice, no matter how stupendous the crisis in our
fortunes, any more than, though our boat be sinking under us, we can
divest ourselves of our clothes with a single shrug; and sympathy and
deferential respect had still their weight with Richard Yorke. Perhaps,
too, his nature had not yet even got quit of its gregariousness, and he
was not sorry to have his acquaintance sought, though by this hang-dog
"I have never been in prison before, if that is what you mean," returned
He who asked the question was a stout-built, grizzled fellow, of about
fifty years. He was dressed like a well-to-do farmer, but his accent
smacked of London rather than the country; and his hands, Richard
observed, were not so coarse and rough as might be expected in one used
to manual labor, though his limbs and frame were powerful enough for the
most arduous toil. His gray eyes looked keenly at Richard from under
their bushy brows, as he propounded a second inquiry:
"What are you in for? Forgery or embezzlement, I reckon--which is it?"
"Neither," answered Richard, laconically, a bitter smile parting his
lips in spite of himself.
"Well, now, that's curious," observed the other, coolly. "If it was not
that you were sent here with the rest of us, and not shut up by
yourself, I should have guessed 'Murder' outright, for you were looking
all that a minute ago; and since it could not be murder, I thought it
must be one of the other two."
"I don't know what I am here for," said Richard, gloomily, "except that
the charge is false."
"Oh, of course," rejoined the other, with a grim chuckle; "it's always
false the first time, and as often afterward as we can get the juries to
believe us. I'm an old hand myself, and my feelings are not easily
wounded; but I have never yet disgraced myself by pleading guilty. It's
throwing a chance away, unless you are a very beautiful young woman who
has put away her baby, and that I never was, nor did."
"Beauty in distress mollifies the court, does it?" inquired Richard,
willing to be won from his own wretchedness by talk even with a man like
"Mollifies!--yes, it makes a molly of every body. I have known a judge
shed tears about it, which he is not bound to do unless he has the black
cap on--that always set him going like an onion. Why, I've seen even an
attorney use his pocket-handkerchief because of a pretty face in
trouble; but then she was his client, to be sure. Talking of attorneys,
you'll have Weasel, of course?"
Richard nodded an affirmative.
"Quite right. I should have him myself, if there was a shadow of a
chance; but, as it is, it's throwing good money out o' winder. I wish
you better luck, young gentleman, than mine is like to be; not that you
want luck, of course, but only justice."
Richard did not relish this tone of banter, and he showed it in his
"Come, come," said the other, good-humoredly, "it is a pity to curdle
such a handsome face as yours with sour thoughts. Let us be friends, for
you may be glad of even a friend like me some dirty day."
"It is very likely," answered Richard, bitterly. "I see no fine days
ahead, nor yet fine friends."
"I hope you will see both," answered the other, frankly. "The first time
one finds one's self provided for so extra careful as this," with a
glance at the iron bars across the low-arched windows, "the prospect
always does seem dark. But one learns to look upon the bright side at
last. Is the figure very heavy that you're in for? Excuse my country
manners: I don't mean to be rude, nor do I ask the question from mere
curiosity; but you don't look like one to have come here for a mere
"The amount in question is two thousand pounds."
"No whistling there!" cried the warder, peremptorily, for the "old hand"
had not been able to repress an expression of emotion at this
announcement. He looked at Richard with an air of self-complacency, such
as a gentleman of the middle classes exhibits on suddenly discovering
that he has been in familiar converse with a person of title, or a small
trader on being brought into unexpected connection with a merchant
prince. The gigantic character of the "operation" had invested this
young man with an increased interest in the stranger's eye.
"That's a great beginning," said he, admiringly, "and could scarcely
have happened with a poor devil like me. One requires to be born a
gentleman to have such opportunities. Now, I don't mind telling _you_"
here he sank his voice to a whisper, and looked cautiously about him,
"that I was forty years of age before I ever got such a haul as yours.
I've done better since, but it's been up-hill work, for all that."
"It doesn't seem to have been very hard work," said Richard, with a
meaning glance at the other's hand.
"Well, no, I can't say as it's been hard; a neat touch is what is wanted
in my profession."
"Why, you're not a pick--" Richard hesitated from motives of delicacy.
"A pickpocket? Well, I hope not, Sir, indeed," interrupted the other,
"Then what _are_ you?" said Richard, bluntly.
As a coy maiden blushes and hangs her head in silence when asked the
question which she is yet both proud and pleased to answer in the
affirmative, so did Mr. Robert Balfour (for such was the name of our new
acquaintance) pause and in graceful confusion rub his stubble chin with
his closed fist ere he replied: "Well, the fact is, I have been in the
gold and precious stone line these thirty years, and never in the
provinces until this present summer, when I came down here, as a Yankee
pal of mine once put it, 'to open a little jewelry store.'"
"With a crowbar?" suggested Richard, with a faint smile.
"Just so," said the other, nodding; "and it so happened that yours
truly, Bob Balfour, was caught in the very act."
"And what term of punishment do you expect for such a--"
"Such a misfortune as that?" answered Mr. Balfour, hastening to relieve
Richard's embarrassment. "Well, if I had got the swag, I
should--considering the testimonials that will be handed in--have been a
lifer. But since I did not realize so much as a weddin' _ring_, twenty
years ought to see me through it now."
Twenty years! Why, this man would be over seventy before he regained his
"Great Heaven!" cried Richard, "can you be cheerful with such a future
before you! and at the end of it, to be turned old and penniless into
the wide world!"
A genuine pity showed itself in the young man's look and tone. A minute
before he had thought himself the most wretched of human beings; yet
here was one whose fate was even harder, and who met it without
repining. Community of trouble had already touched the heart which he
had thought was turned to stone.
"Are you sorry for me, young gentleman," inquired the convict, in an
altered voice, "you who have got so much trouble of your own to bear?"
"I am, indeed," said Richard, frankly.
"You would not write a letter for me, though, would you?" inquired the
other, wistfully. "I should like to tell--somebody as I've left at
home--where I am gone to; and the fact is, I can't write; I never
learned how to do it."
A blush came over Bob Balfour's face for the first time; the man was
ashamed of his ignorance, though not of his career of crime. "If it's
too much trouble, say so," added he, gruffly. "Perhaps it was too great
a favor to ask of a gentleman born."
"Not at all," said Richard, hastily, "if the man will bring us pen and
"Hush! the _officer_, if you please," said Balfour. "They like to be
'officered,' these gentry, every one of them. Some friends of mine
always addresses 'em as 'dogs;' but that's a mistake, when they has to
Mr. Robert Balfour spoke a few respectful words to the warder, and the
requisite materials were soon laid upon the table. Richard dipped his
pen in the ink, and waited for directions. "It's only a few words,"
muttered Mr. Balfour, apologetically, "to my old mother. Perhaps you
have a mother yourself, young gentleman?"
"I have." He had written to her guardedly the previous day, before he
left Plymouth, to tell her the same sad news which he was now, as he
supposed, about to repeat for another, and to urge her to repair to
Cross Key at once.
Mr. Balfour beat softly on the table with his forefinger for a moment,
and then, as though he had found the key-note of the desired
composition, dictated as follows:
"MY DEAR MOTHER,--When this comes to hand, I shall have took your
advice, and started for the New World. There's a ship a-sailing
from Plymouth in a day or two, and my passage in her is booked. I
didn't like to come back to town again, for fear I should change my
mind, and turn to the old trade. The post is queer and doubtful,
they tell me, in these far-away parts; but you shall hear from me
whenever I have an opportunity. All as is mine is yours, remember;
so, use it. I have no need of money myself, for there's a place
being kept for me, out yonder, in the carpentering line. Hoping
this finds you well, as it leaves me, I am your dutiful son, ROBERT
"Then you don't tell her any thing about what's happened to you?" said
"Why should I? The poor soul's over seventy, and will never see me
again. It's much better that she should have a pretty picture to look at
than such a reality as this; ain't it?"
"Well, I suppose it is."
This delicate feeling on the part of Mr. Balfour jarred upon Richard.
_He_ had taken no pains to break the news of his imprisonment to _his_
mother; on the contrary, he had painted the wretchedness of his
position, with a view to set forth the urgent necessity for help, in its
most sombre colors. Of course there was a great difference in the two
cases, an immense difference; but still he resented this exhibition of
natural piety, as contrasting unpleasantly with his own conduct.
The other, however, had no suspicion of this. His thoughts, just then,
were far away; and the subject of them gave an unwonted softness to his
tone as he observed: "I thank you for this, kindly, young gentleman.
Here's the address--Earl Street, Spitalfields. It's her own house; and
she will have enough, and to spare, while she lives, thank the Lord!
Well, that's done with; and if Bob Balfour can do you a good turn for
it, he will. Hello, you're wanted."
"Richard Yorke!" repeated the warder, loudly. "Can't you hear?"
Richard had heard well enough; but the idea that it was his mother who
had come to see him had for the moment unmanned him; he well knew how
proud she had been of him; and how was he to meet her now, disgraced,
disheartened, in prison, a reputed thief! But the next instant he
reflected that her arrival could not be possibly looked for for some
days; perhaps it was Trevethick, who had, in the mean time, learned all,
and was come to announce his willingness to withdraw from the
prosecution; perhaps Harry herself was with him; perhaps--
But there was no time for further prognostication; a second warder was
at the door, beckoning impatiently, and Richard rose at once. The dull
faces of the rest were all raised toward him with a malign aspect; they
feared that some good news was come for him, that they were about to
lose a companion in misfortune. Only one held out his hand, with a "Good
luck to you, young gentleman; though I never see you again, I shall not
"Silence there!" cried the officer in charge, as Richard passed out into
the stone passage. "You ought to know our ways better than that,
ATTORNEY AND CLIENT.
In a hall of stone stood a room of glass, and in that room the inmates
of Cross Key Jail were permitted to have access to their legal advisers.
They were not lost sight of by the jealous guardians of the place, one
of whom perambulated the hall throughout the interview; but though he
could see all that passed, he could hear nothing. Mr. Weasel of Plymouth
was very well known at Cross Key as being a frequent visitor to that
transparent apartment, and those prisoners whom he favored with his
attentions were justly held in high estimation by the warders, as
gentlemen who, though in difficulties, had at least some considerable
command of ready money. He was waiting now, with his hat on (which he
always wore, to increase his very limited stature), in this chamber of
audience; and so withered up he looked, and such a sharp, shrunk face he
had, that Richard, seeing him in the glass case, might have thought him
some dried specimen of humanity, not alive at all, had he not chanced to
be in the act of taking snuff; and even that was ghostly too, since it
produced the pantomimic action of sneezing without its accompanying
"Mr. Richard Yorke, I believe?" said he, as soon as they were shut up
within the walls of glass, "I am glad to make your acquaintance, Sir,
though I wish, for your sake, that it happened in another place. You'll
excuse my not offering you my hand."
Richard drew back his extended arm and turned crimson.
"Don't be offended, Sir," said the lawyer; "but the fact is, the
authorities here don't like it. There are some parties in this place who
employ very queer legal advisers; and in shaking hands, a file or a
gimlet, and a bit of tobacco, are as likely to pass as not. That warder
can see every thing, my dear young Sir; but he can no more hear what we
say than he can understand what a couple of bumble-bees are murmuring
about who are barred up in a double window. We can therefore converse
with one another as much without reserve as we please, or rather"--and
here the little man's eyes twinkled significantly--"as _you_ please.
What I hear from a client in this ridiculous place is never revealed
beyond it, except so far as it may serve his interests. If Mr. Dodge (to
whose favor, as I understand, I owe this introduction) has told you any
thing concerning me, he will, I am sure, have advised you to be quite
frank and candid."
"There was no necessity for such a warning, Mr. Weasel, in my case, I do
assure you," answered Richard, earnestly. "I have nothing to conceal
from you with respect to the circumstances of my position: they are
unfortunate, and doubtless very suspicious; but I am as innocent of this
"Hush, hush! my dear Sir; this will never do. It is mere waste of time,
though it might have been much worse. Good Heavens! suppose you had been
guilty, and told me _that_! you would have placed me in the most
embarrassing situation, as your professional adviser, it is possible for
the human mind to conceive. What I want to know is _your_ story, so far
as these two thousand pounds found in your possession are concerned.
Whether it is true or not, does not matter a button. I want to know
whether it _seems_ true; whether it will seem true to a judge and jury.
You have thought the matter over, of course; you have gone through it in
your own mind from beginning to end--now please to go over it to me."
The little man whipped out a note-book, leaned forward in his chair, and
looked all eye and ear, like a terrier watching at a rat-hole.
After a moment's pause, Richard stated his case pretty much as we are
already acquainted with it; the little lawyer interrupting him now and
then by a gesture, but never by a word, in order that he might set down
a point or a memorandum.
"Very good," said Mr. Weasel, when he had quite finished. "That's your
story, is it?"
"It's the truth, Sir."
"Hush! my dear young Sir. We shall have enough of that--the truth, the
whole truth, and nothing but the truth--a fortnight hence. What you and
I have to consider are the probabilities. Why did you go to Plymouth,
more than any other place, to change these notes?"
"Because I had heard there was a Miners' Bank there, and Trevethick had
mentioned the notes of that company as being as good, in his opinion, as
those of the Bank of England. I thought it would be easier to get the
Mining notes in exchange for those of the Bank of England, than others
of the same bank."
"The check which you showed this Trevethick was not, then, a _bona fide_
piece of paper, eh?"
"It was not," said Richard, casting down his eyes.
"Very good," answered the lawyer, so cheerfully that you would have
thought his client had cleared himself of the least suspicion upon
_that_ score, at all events. "Now, where did you get it?"
"My mother sent me a blank check, at my request, and I filled it in."
"That check is destroyed, you say--you burned it, of course?"
"No; I tore it up, and threw it out of the window of the carriage."
"The devil you did!" said Mr. Weasel, in perturbation. "That is not the
way to destroy checks. Had your mother an account at the bank on which
it was drawn?"
"Of course." said Richard, simply.
"There is nothing 'of course,' Mr. Yorke, in this matter," answered the
lawyer, gravely. "Are you quite sure?"
"Quite. She has always had an account there; though to no such amount as
two thousand pounds."
"It is a large sum," muttered the lawyer, thoughtfully, "but still they
have not lost one penny of it. In case things went against you, Mr.
Yorke, would an appeal to the prosecutor be likely to be of service?"
"Certainly not," answered Richard, hastily. "I would not accept mercy at
his hands; besides, it is not a question of mercy."
"It may come to that," observed the other, gravely. "We must not deceive
ourselves, Mr. Yorke."
"Good Heavens! do you believe, then, that I took this money with intent
to steal it?"
"What my belief is is of no consequence, one way or the other; but my
opinion is that the jury will take that view, if they hear your story as
you tell it. The fact is, you have left out the most important incident
of all: the whole case will hinge upon the young lady's having given you
these notes with her own hand. It is evident, of course, that she
sympathized with you in your scheme," pursued the lawyer, rapidly, and
holding up his finger to forbid the protest that was already rising to
Richard's lip: "nothing could be more natural, though most imprudent and
ill judged, than her behavior. She had no more idea of stealing the
money than you had; how should she, since it was in a manner her own,
she being her father's sole heiress. You and I see that clearly enough,
but to a jury used to mere matters of fact, motive has little
significance unless put into action. What we want, and what we must
have, is evidence that you got these notes, not only for this girl's
sake, but from her fingers. Nobody can hurt _her_, you know. Trevethick
could never prosecute his own daughter; indeed, the whole affair
dwindles down to a lover's stratagem, and there is no need for
prosecuting any body, if we can only put Harry Trevethick into the
witness-box. Now can we, Mr. Yorke, or can we not? that's the question."
Richard was silent; the lawyer's argument struck him with its full
force. He had no scruples on the matter for his own part, but he feared
that Harry might entertain them--they would be only too much in keeping
with her credulous and superstitious nature.
"If I could talk to her alone for five minutes," muttered Richard,
"That is impossible," said Mr. Weasel, with decision. "We can only play
with such cards as we hold. I could go to Gethin myself, though it would
be most inconvenient at this busy time, and refresh this young woman's
memory; but it is a delicate task, and would be looked upon by the other
side with some suspicion. Now, is there no judicious friend that can be
thoroughly depended upon--a female friend, if possible, since the affair
may require tact and sympathy--to effect this little negotiation? Think,
my good Sir, think."
"Why, there is my mother herself!" ejaculated Richard, suddenly. "She is
the wisest of women, and the very one to conduct this matter, if
"Is she, now, is she?" said the lawyer, cheerily. "Come, come, that's
well, and I begin to see a little light. Let her go down to Gethin,
where, as I conclude, she is not known, and see Miss Trevethick herself.
I should like to see her beforehand, however; indeed, that is absolutely
"In my note to her, yesterday, I asked her to call at your office in
Plymouth on her way hither," stammered Richard. "I thought it
better--that is, in the first instance--that she should hear from you
how matters stood."
Mr. Weasel took a copious pinch of snuff, and shut his eyes, as though
he were going to sneeze. Whenever a client got upon an embarrassing
topic Mr. Weasel took snuff, to obviate the necessity of looking him in
the face; while, in case of any compromising disclosure, Mr. Weasel
sneezed, to obviate hearing it.
"In a case of this kind, Mr. Yorke, not a moment is to be lost. I should
advise your mother's going direct to Gethin from my house, and making
sure of this young lady's evidence. There is even a possibility--I don't
say it is probable, but there is just a chance, you see--that she may be
subpoenaed _by the other side_."
"Just so," assented Richard, so naively that a smile flitted across the
little lawyer's face.
"Under these circumstances, then, this is what we will do, my dear young
Sir: Mrs. Yorke will go to the _Gethin Castle_ as a guest, and, as I
shall venture to suggest, under another name; she will then find an
opportunity of speaking to Miss Trevethick without awakening her
father's suspicions; and when she comes to Cross Key, she will have, I
trust, some good news to bring you, something to talk about (although
you must be very careful and guarded, mind that, for you will not be
left alone together, as we are) besides mere regrets and lamentations;
don't you see, don't you see?"
Richard saw exceedingly well, and felt more grateful to the lawyer for
devising such an arrangement than he would like to have confessed;
nevertheless, he did thank him heartily.
"Not at all, not at all, my dear young Sir," drawing on one of his
gloves, in signal of departure. "In a case like this, we must consult
feelings as well as array our facts; we must bring heart and head to
bear together. Speaking of head reminds me, by-the-by, of the subject of
counsel. I propose to instruct Mr. Smoothbore, who leads upon this
circuit; I gather from your letter that there will be no difficulty with
respect to funds."
"Whatever may be necessary, Mr. Weasel, for my defense will be, you may
rest assured, forthcoming. My mother--"
The smile disappeared from the lawyer's face with electrical rapidity.
"Pardon me, my young friend," said he; "but as a professional man, I
only deal with principals in these matters. The word forthcoming is a
little vague. Counsel are paid beforehand, you must remember."
We must not be angry with Mr. Weasel, who was really a good sort of man
after his kind. He was naturally cautious, and if he had been the most
trustful of mankind his experience would have taught him prudence. He
did like to see his money down; and really, as to Mr. Yorke, all he knew
of his pecuniary position was with relation to that blank check, the
history of which was not of a nature to inspire confidence.
"I was about to observe," said Richard, haughtily, "that my mother would
satisfy all claims; but, in the mean time, there were over a hundred
pounds in notes and gold which were found upon me when I was searched at
Plymouth. If you doubt me, you have only to make inquiries."
"My dear young Sir," returned the lawyer, earnestly, "this is not
courteous, this is not kind. I never doubted you from the first moment
that I saw you; no one with any knowledge of mankind could do so.
Professional etiquette compelled me to remark that I could treat with
principals only, that is all. Let me see," added he, consulting his
note-book, "have I any thing more to say? Yes, yes. With respect to this
young lady, Miss Harry Trevethick--I did not like to interrupt you at
the time, but I see I have made a memorandum--is she pretty?"
"She is very, very beautiful," said Richard, earnestly, the remembrance
of her beauty giving a tenderness to his tone.
"That's capital!" nodded the lawyer. "Old Bantam is our judge this
session, and he likes a pretty face. So do we all, for the matter of
that, I hope. You are young and good-looking yourself, too; Smoothbore
will make something of _that_, you may depend upon it. 'Gracious
Heavens, is the iron arm of the law to sunder these happy lovers for a
mere indiscretion, and make their bright young lives a blank forever?'
He'll give them something like that, Sir, in a voice broken by emotion,
and bring you off with flying colors."
"I don't care about the colors, if he only brings me off," said Richard,
"A very natural remark, my dear young Sir, for one in your present
situation; but three weeks hence, as I both hope and believe, you will
not be so easily satisfied; the more we have, the more we want, you
know--except in the matter of time. I have very little to spare of it
just now, and must therefore take my leave."
Mr. Weasel had put on his other glove and his hat, and, with a cheerful
nod, had actually placed his fingers on the door-handle, when he
suddenly turned round, and said: "By-the-by, I had almost forgotten a
little form of words, which in your case I am sure will be _but_ a form,
and yet I do not like to omit it. I never leave a client in your
position without asking him the question; so you must excuse me, my
young friend, and not be offended."
"I am not in a position to be very sensitive about what is said to me,"
answered Richard, bitterly. "Pray ask whatever you please."
Mr. Weasel looked cautiously round, to see that the warder was not too
near, and lowered his voice to a whisper. "Is this little affair your
first, my dear young Sir? I mean," added he, "have you ever been in
trouble with the law before?"
"Certainly not," replied Richard, smiling.
"I had anticipated your answer," said the little lawyer, gayly; "but I
thought it right to make quite certain. Because, if the affair should
happen to reach a stage where the question of 'character' is mooted
(though it won't get so far as _that_, I trust, in our case), one
doesn't like to be taken altogether by surprise, do you see? You have
been a landscape-painter, you say. A most innocent and charming
occupation, I am sure, and one which Smoothbore will make the very most
of. The case altogether will afford him such opportunities that he
really ought to do it cheap. And you've never been any thing else, have
you? never had any other calling, or obtained your livelihood by any
other than quite legal and permissible means--eh? What, what? You have
not been quite frank and candid with me, my dear Sir, I fear."
"It is really not of much consequence," said Richard, hesitating.
"You must allow me to be the judge of that, Mr. Yorke," said the other,
gravely, taking off his hat once more and one of his gloves. "Imagine
yourself a good Catholic, if you please, with Father Weasel for your
The confession lasted for some minutes.
"I think you will admit that what I have told you has not much bearing
upon the matter in hand," said Richard, when he had finished.
"None at all, none at all--that is, I hope not," answered the other,
thoughtfully. "But what an interesting revelation it is! What a nice
point as to whether the matter is an offense against the law or not! How
prettily Smoothbore would treat the subject, if it chanced to come in
his way!" He looked at Richard with admiration. "You're a most
remarkable young man, Sir; I wish that circumstances permitted of my
shaking you by the hand. Good-morning, my dear Sir. You may depend upon
my not permitting the grass to grow under my feet. When your mother
comes she will have good news for you. Good-morning."
The warder took possession of Richard, while Mr. Weasel, followed by the
young man's longing eyes, was ushered to the opposite door, on the other
side of which was liberty. But the lawyer's mind was still within the
prison walls, though his legs were free, and walking up the street of
the little town toward his inn.
"Now, that is really a most remarkable young man," he murmured to
himself. "A most ingenious young fellow, upon my word. The idea of his
having invented a new crime! Why, bless my heart, it's quite an
epoch--quite an epoch!"
THE IRON CAGE.
So long as Richard had had Mr. Weasel to bear him company, half his
troubles--so elastic was his nature, and so apt for social
intercourse--seemed to have been removed; but now that that brisk,
confident voice was heard no more, and the stone passages only echoed to
the tread of the warder and himself, his spirits sank even lower than
they had been before. Alone in his comfortless cell, he went over the
lawyer's talk anew, and it was strange how the sparks of comfort died
out of it. It was clear that in the first instance his companion had
taken a gloomy view of his case, that he looked upon Richard's own story
with utter disbelief, and was convinced it would not hold water before a
jury. His remark about the money having been recovered must have had
reference to a possible mitigation of the sentence, and therefore took
conviction for granted. Nor, upon reconsideration of the case with
calmness--the calm of loneliness and despair--was, Richard himself
admitted, any other conclusion to be arrived at by a stranger. Those who
were acquainted with his rash and impulsive character and reckless ways
would understand that he had no serious intention of robbing
Trevethick--except, that is, of his daughter; even Trevethick himself
must be aware of that; though, with that same exception before his eyes,
it was more than doubtful whether he would acknowledge it. Smarting with
the sense of the deceit that Richard had practiced (almost with success)
upon him, he might conceal his real impression of the affair, and treat
it as a common felony. Taking the brutality of Solomon's manner to him
when he was arrested as an index of his prosecutor's purpose, he felt
that this was what would happen; and if so, what chance would he have
against such evidence? Would the judge and jury be persuaded to believe
that he had acted with the romantic folly that had in reality possessed
him? And if not, to what protracted wretchedness might he not be doomed!
His old hopes, in short, lay dead within him, and he felt that his late
adviser had been right in suggesting the evidence of Harry Trevethick as
the only means to secure his acquittal. He did not look beyond _that_
for an hour. Life for the next three weeks would have but one event for
him--his trial and its result. The little attorney, whom he had seen but
once, the suasive barrister, of whom he had only heard, were from
henceforth the two persons upon earth who had the most interest for him
of all mankind. If _they_ failed him, all was lost. If they succeeded,
all, or what had now become his all, was gained. He thought of Harry
only as the being upon whose testimony his fate depended; he did not
picture her to himself in any other character, though perhaps he would
have refused to part with her even at the price of that liberty which
had become so precious in his eyes. She would surely not refuse to say
the half-dozen words which were the "open sesame" that alone could set
him free! He thought of his mother, not so much as such--the truest and
most unselfish friend he had--as the person best qualified to win Harry
over to speak those words. He was no longer ashamed to see her; his
heart was so full of anxious fear that there was no room for shame; but
he was glad that the lawyer had recommended her to visit Gethin before
coming to Cross Key. What he thirsted for was hope, a gleam of sunshine,
a whisper of good news. If his mother had not that to give him, let her
stay away. He did not wish his heart to be melted within him by regrets
and tears; if there was no hope, let it harden on, till it was as hard
as adamant, for the hour, that, however long delayed, must come at
last--of vengeance! He thought of Solomon Coe as one of a dominant race
thinks of the slave who has become his master, and was his murderer in
his heart ten times a day. He thought of him as the man who would marry
Trevethick's daughter, his own Harry, while he (Richard) rotted in jail.
Such were the bitter reflections, creeping fears, and meagre hopes which
consumed him when he was alone, that is to say, for five-sixths of the
day and all the weary night. In the society of Balfour he found, if not
solace, at least some respite from his gnawing cares. The importance
which this man had attached to the recovery of stolen goods as
mitigating the punishment of crime, and to good looks in the case of a
female witness or prisoner, corroborated as it had been by the judicial
experience of Mr. Weasel, gave him confidence in the convict's
intelligence; or, at least, in his judgment with respect to the matter
on which Richard's thoughts were solely concentrated. He was never weary
of asking this man's opinion on this point and on that of his own case,
the details of which he fully confided to him. Balfour, on his part,
gave him his best advice, and whatever comfort he could. He did not
resent, nor even seem to be aware of the fact, that the position in
which he stood himself awoke no corresponding sympathy in Richard. He
had taken a fancy to this young fellow, so different from any companion
that he had ever known; was flattered by his confidence; and felt that
enthusiasm toward him which friendship, when it exists between two
persons of widely different grades, sometimes begets in the inferior.
A week passed on, and then, at the same time and place as before,
Richard was summoned from his fellow-prisoners. He turned pale in spite
of himself, as he rose from the table to meet for the first time, since
disgrace had overwhelmed him, his mother's face.
"Don't give way, my young master," whispered Balfour, good-naturedly,
"for that will only make the old woman fret."
Richard nodded, and followed the warder, who on this occasion led the
way through a different door. "It ain't Mr. Weasel this time," said the
latter, in answer to his look of surprise; "it's a private friend, and
therefore we can't let you have the glass box." He ushered him into what
would have been a stone courtyard, except that it had a roof also of
stone. In the middle of this, running right across it, was a sort of
cage of iron, or rather a passage some six feet broad, shut in on either
side by high iron rails; within this paced an officer of the prison; and
on the other side of it stood a female figure, whom Richard at once
recognized as his mother. It was with this iron cage between them, and
in the presence of an official, that prisoners in Cross Key Jail were
alone permitted to receive the visits of their friends and kinsfolk. It
was no wonder that in an interview under such restrictions, Mr. Weasel
should have recommended caution.
To do Richard justice, however, that was not the reflection that now
passed through his mind. For all his selfish thoughts and calculations,
he had really yearned to cast himself on his mother's breast, and feel
once more her loving arms around him; to whisper in her ever-ready ear
his sorrow for the past, his anxieties for the future; and when he saw
that this was not to be, the heart that he would have poured out before
her seemed to sink and shrink within him. In this material obstacle
between them he seemed to behold a type of the dread doom that was
impending over him--separation from humanity, exclusion from the world
without, a life-long entombment within stone walls. He put his hand and
arm through the bars, mechanically, to touch his mother's fingers, and
when he found he could not reach them, he burst into tears. It was only
by a great effort that Mrs. Yorke could maintain her self-control; but
she, nevertheless, did do so. Her face was calm, and her eyes, though
full of tenderness and pity, were tearless; only her low, soft voice
gave token of the woe within her in its tremulous and faltering tones.
"Dear Richard," it said, "my own dear Richard, take heart; a few days
hence, and you will be folded in your mother's arms; not to stray from
them again, I trust, my boy, my boy!" She pressed her forehead with its
fine white hair against the cruel bars, and seemed to devour him with
her loving eyes. "All will yet be well," she continued; "your innocence
can not fail to be established, and this dreadful time will be forgotten
like an evil dream."
"Have you been to Gethin, mother?"
"Yes, dear; I only came from thence this morning. Harry sent you her
best love. Your faith in her, she bade me tell you, is not misplaced;
_she will be in the witness-box, for certain_." This last sentence was
uttered in the French tongue, and very rapidly.
"I am very sorry, ma'am," interrupted the official, who had retired to
the further extremity of the cage, "but my orders are to prohibit
conversation between prisoners and their friends in a foreign language."
"I will take care not to transgress again," said Mrs. Yorke, with a
sweet smile; "your consideration for us I am sure demands all
"Has Mr. Weasel made his arrangements, mother?"
"Yes, all; the subpoena will be sent to Gethin to morrow. He is most
confident as to the result."
"And what does Mr. Smoothbore say? Have you seen _him_?"
"No, dear, no. But the matter on which I went to Gethin having been
satisfactorily arranged, we may consider that is all settled. Your
counsel has no doubt of being able to establish your innocence,
notwithstanding the malice of your enemies."
"But what is he like, this Smoothbore?"
"Well, the fact is, Richard, we have not got him, but another man, Mr.
Balais--quite his equal, Mr. Weasel assures me, in all respects."
"Not got him!" cried Richard, impatiently. "Why, Weasel told me
Smoothbore led the circuit. Why have we not secured him?"
"He has been retained by the other side," answered Mrs. Yorke, in a tone
that she in vain endeavored to render cheerful. "To say the truth,
Richard, the prosecutor is exhibiting the utmost vindictiveness, and
straining every nerve for a conviction. Money, which he was said to be
so fond of, is now no object with him, or at least he spares none. But
he can not bribe twelve honest men, nor a righteous judge."
"I knew it," exclaimed Richard, stamping his foot on the stone floor.
"Those sullen brutes, Trevethick and the other, would have my life, if
they could. There is nothing that they would stick at, be assured of
that--and do you put Weasel on his guard--to work my ruin. How could he
be such a dolt as to let them be beforehand with him, when he himself
said there was not an hour to be lost!"
"Indeed, Richard, all was done for the best. One could scarcely expect
Mr. Weasel to advance so large a sum as was required, without security;
and he did communicate with Mr. Smoothbore as soon as he had satisfied
himself upon that score. He assures me Mr. Balais is quite as clever a
counsel. Indeed, I should not have told you of the change, had you not
pressed the question so directly."
"Tell me all, mother; tell me every thing; I adjure you to keep nothing
back. To think and guess and fear, in a place like this, is worse than
not to know the worst. Trevethick is a miser, and yet you say he is
spending with a lavish hand. How is it you know that?"
"Why, Mr. Smoothbore's clerk is a friend of Mr. Weasel's, and he hears
from him that his master has never received so large a retaining fee as
on this occasion. The sum we offered, two days afterward, though larger
than is customary, was, he said, but a trifle compared with it."
"You have something else to tell me yet, mother--I see it in your eyes.
If you go away with it untold, you leave me on the rack."
"There is nothing more," answered his mother, hesitatingly, "or almost
"What is it?" cried Richard, hoarsely--"what is it?"
"Well, merely this: that thinking that no money should be spared to help
you in this dreadful trouble, Richard, and having but a very little of
my own, I--I forgot my pride and steadfast resolution never to ask your
"You did not apply to Carew for money, surely?" ejaculated Richard,
angrily. "To let him know that I was here was ruin."
"It may have been ill judged, indeed, dear Richard," replied his mother,
quietly; "but it was not ill meant. Do you suppose it cost me nothing to
be his suppliant? Do you suppose I have no scorn nor hate, as you have,
for those who have wronged me and you? If fury could avail to set you
free, your mother would be as the tigress robbed of her young. It is an
easy thing enough to fume and foam; it is hard to have to clasp the
knees of those whom you despise, in vain."
"He refused you, then--this man?"
"He did, Richard. He told me--what I had not learned from you; I do not
say it to reproach you, dear--what it was that had so long detained you
at Gethin. He mentioned, in coarsest terms, your love for Harry, and how
you had misrepresented yourself to Trevethick as the heir of Crompton in
order to win her. He expressed a callous indifference to your present
peril, and added something more in menace than in warning respecting
that affair with Chandos which caused you to leave his roof. Since it
seemed you had made no secret of the matter to Mr. Weasel, I showed him
Carew's note; and his opinion is that Trevethick has spies at work to
track your past. This may or may not injure you. Mr. Weasel thinks that
it will not; but it shows the rancor with which this case is pressed by
Trevethick--a malice which we are altogether at a loss to understand."
Richard ground his heel upon the stone without reply, while his mother
looked at him in gravest sorrow.
"Your time is almost up, ma'am," said the warder; "there's only a minute
"You told her how much depended on her, mother, did you?" said Richard,
rousing himself in the effort.
"Yes, dear. She will not fail us, never fear. Keep heart and hope; and
as for me, you will be sure that not a moment of my waking thoughts is
wasted upon aught but you. I shall see you again, once more at least,
before your--before the trial comes on; and Mr. Weasel will be here next
week again. Is there any thing, my own dear boy, that I can do for you?"
"One moment, mother. Carew has not punished _you_ on my account, I
trust? He has not cut off--"
"The annuity? Yes; he has stopped that."
"May he rot on earth, and perish everlastingly!"
"Hush, hush, dear; pray be calm; there is no need to fret. I can support
myself without his aid; indeed I can; and perhaps he may relent when he
gets sane, for he was like a madman at my coming to Crompton. Mr.
Whymper will do all he can, I am sure. How cruel it was of me to heed
your words, and tell you--Look to him, warder, look to my son!" she
Richard had indeed turned deadly pale, and though his fingers still
mechanically clutched the iron rail, was swaying to and fro; the warder
unlocked the passage-gate, and ran to him just in time to save his
falling headlong on the pavement.
"Are you a man," said the agonized woman, "or iron like this"--and she
beat against the railing passionately--"that you will not let a mother
kiss her son when he is dying?"
"Nay, nay, ma'am; it's not so bad as that," said the warder,
good-naturedly; "see, he's a-coming round agen all right. I've seen a
many took like that. In half a minute he'll be himself again. It's his
trouble as does it, bless you. If you'll take my advice, you'll spare
both your son and yourself the pain of parting, and leave him as he is.
I'd go bail for it, it's just a faint, that's all."
"Let me kiss him once," implored the unhappy woman. "Oh, man, if you
have ever known a mothers love, let me kiss him once! Here is a
five-pound note--take it, and leave me still your debtor--but one kiss."
"Nay, ma'am, I can't take your money; of which, as I couldn't help
hearing you say, you have not got too much to spare. But you shall kiss
your bonnie boy, and welcome;" and with that the stout warder took the
unconscious lad up in his arms, and bore him within the passage; and
his, mother put her lips between the bars and pressed them to his
forehead once, twice, thrice.
"There, there, ma'am; that will do," muttered the man, impatiently; "and
even that is as much as my place is worth. Now, just tap at yonder door,
and they'll let you out."
Mrs. Yorke obeyed him without a word. She had heard the heavy fluttering
sigh that betokened Richard's return to consciousness, and knew that the
worst was over; unless, indeed, the coming back to life might not be the
worst of all.
IN THE COURT-HOUSE.
It is proposed by some elevators of the public mind to make us all
philosophers, and to abolish the morbid interest which mankind at
present entertains in the issues of life and death. They hold it
weakness that we should become excited by incident, or enthralled by
mystery, and prophesy a future when intelligence shall reign supreme, to
the extinction of the vulgar passion for sensation. In the mean time,
however, the sympathetic hopes and fears of humanity remain pretty much
as they have been within all living memory; and one of the greatest
treats that can be provided for the popular palate is a criminal trial.
There are many reasons why this should be the case; the courts of law
are free, and a sight that can be seen for nothing is of itself
attractive, since we are, at all events, not losing our time and money
too. Again, the most popular drama, the most popular novel, are those to
which the denouements can not easily be guessed; and in the court-house
we see drama and novel realized with the verdict of the jury and the
sentence of the judge--a matter of anxious speculation to the very last.
Where theatres and books are rare the passion for such scenes is
proportionally stronger, and perhaps there is no periodical event which
so deeply stirs the agricultural interest--speaking socially, and not
politically--as the advent of the Judges of Assize.
At Cross Key, at all events, there was nothing else talked of for weeks
beforehand; and the case which above all others was canvassed, and
prejudged, and descanted upon over all sorts of boards--from the
mahogany one in the dining-room at Cross Key Park to the deal tripod
which held the pots and pipes at the road-side beer-house--was that of
Richard Yorke, the young gentleman-painter, who had run away with old
John Trevethick of Gethin's hoarded store. The rumor had got abroad that
he had almost run away with his daughter also, and this intensified the
interest immensely. The whole female population, from the high-sheriff's
wife down to the woman who kept the apple-stall in the market-place, was
agog to see this handsome young Lothario, and especially to hear the
evidence of his (clandestinely) betrothed, who was known to have been
subpoenaed for the defense.
There were innumerable biographies of the prisoner to be had for
nothing. He was a noble-man in disguise; he was the illegitimate son of
the prime minister; he was indirectly but immediately connected with
royalty itself; he could speak every European language (except Polish),
and painted landscapes like an angel; he had four thousand a year in
land, only waiting for him to come of age, which carried with it half
the representation of a Whig borough; he had not a penny in the world,
but had hitherto supported himself in luxury by skillful forgeries;
young as he was, he was a married man, and had a wife (three times his
age) alive. All these particulars were insisted upon and denied forty
times a day. The least scraps of trust-worthy intelligence concerning
him were greedily devoured. The turnpike-man who had opened gate to let
him through on the night he came to the jail was cross-examined as to
his appearance and demeanor. The rural policeman of the district (who
had never had a chance of seeing him) was treated to pots of ale, and
suddenly found himself the best of company. The _Castle_ at Gethin was
thronged by local tourists, who, under pretense of being attracted by
the scenery, came to stare at Harry, and, having seen her, returned to
Cross Key with marvelous stories of her charms. As the time drew on the
applications for admittance to the court-house made the life of the
under-sheriff a burden, and caused the hearts of his subordinates (who
got the half-crowns) to sing for joy.
The unhappy Richard was wholly ignorant of all this excitement. When he
pictured the court-house to himself, as he often did, he only beheld a
crowd of indifferent persons, who would pay no more attention to his own
case than to that of Balfour, or any other that might follow or precede
it. He saw himself taken out in custody, and carried in some conveyance,
such as he had arrived in, through the gaping street; but the idea of
that ordeal gave him no uneasiness. Those who saw him would forget him
the next moment, or confuse him with some other in the same wretched
plight. His mind always reverted from such reflections, as comparatively
trivial, to the issue of the trial itself. Indeed, that thought might be
said to be constant, though others intruded on it occasionally without
obscuring it, like light clouds that cross the moon. As to the details
of the scene of which he was about to be so prominent an actor, he knew
nothing; for the warders never opened their lips to him, except
officially, and Mr. Balfour had never happened to come to grief in the
course of his professional practice in that particular locality before.
But the fact was that the jail of Cross Key, though situated in so
out-of-the-way a spot, was a model establishment in its way, and built
upon the very highest principles of architecture, as connected with the
administration of the criminal law. No prisoner was ever taken out of it
for trial at all, but was conducted by an underground passage into the
court-house itself--indeed, into the very heart of it, for a flight of
steps, with a trap-door at the top, led straight into the dock, in which
he made his appearance like a Jack-in-the-box, but much more to his own
astonishment than to that of the spectators.
Imagine the unhappy Richard thus confronted, wholly unexpectedly, with a
thousand eager eyes! They devoured him on the right hand and on the
left, before him and behind him; they looked down upon him from the
galleries above with a hunger that was increased by distance. Even the
barristers in the space between him and the judge turned round to gaze
at him, and the judge himself adjusted his spectacles upon his nose to
regard him with a searching look. Not a sound was to be heard except the
monotonous voice of the clerk reading the indictment; it was plain that
every one of that vast concourse knew him, and needed not that his
neighbor should whisper, "That is he." Was his mother there? thought
Richard, and above all, Was Harry there? He looked round once upon that
peering throng; but he could catch sight of neither. The former, with a
thick veil over her features, was, indeed, watching him from a corner of
the court; but the only face he recognized was that of his attorney,
seated immediately behind a man with a wig, whom he rightly concluded to
be Mr. Sergeant Balais.
There was a sudden silence, following upon the question, "How say you,
Richard Yorke, are you guilty of this felony, or not guilty?" The
turnkey by the prisoner's side muttered harshly behind his hand, "They
have called on you to plead."
"Not guilty," answered Richard, in a loud, firm voice, and fixing his
eyes upon the judge.
A murmur of satisfaction ran softly through the court-house. His
hesitation had alarmed the curious folks; they were afraid that he might
have pleaded "Guilty," and robbed them of their treat. Not a few of
them, and perhaps all the women, were also pleased upon his own account.
He was so young and handsome that they could not choose but wish him
well, and out of his peril.
Then Mr. Smoothbore rose, and was some time about it. He was six feet
four inches high, and it seemed as though you would never see the last
of him. ("Oh, Jerryusalem, upon wheels!" was the remark that Mr. Robert
Balfour muttered to himself when some hours afterward _he_ found himself
confronted by the same gigantic counsel, instructed specially by the
crown to prosecute so notorious a marauder.) The twelve men in the box
opposite at once became all ear. Some leaned forward, as though to
anticipate by the millionth of a second the silvery accents of Mr.
Smoothbore; others leaned back with head aside, as though to concentrate
their intelligence upon them; and the foreman held his head with both
his hands, as though that portion of his person was not wholly under
control, but might make some erratic twist, and thereby lose him some
pregnant sentence. These honest men did not know Mr. Smoothbore, and
thought (for the first five minutes) that they could sit and listen to
him forever; before they had done with him they began to think that they
should have to do it.
Far be it from us to emulate the prolixity with which the learned
counsel set forth his case; it must be conceded that he did not hang
over it; his words ran as smoothly as oil, and with perfect
distinctness, and if any body missed his meaning, it was not for want of
its being sufficiently expressed. To a listener of average ability,
however, he became insupportable by repetition, which is, unhappily, not
exclusively "the vice of the pulpit." We will take care to avoid his
error. It will be sufficient to say that when he had finished Richard
stood accused not only of having stolen two thousand pounds from John
Trevethick, but of having compassed that crime under circumstances of
peculiar baseness. He had taken advantage of his superior education,
manners, and appearance, to impose himself upon the honest Cornishman as
the legitimate son of his landlord, and secured within that humble home
a footing of familiarity, only the better to compass a scheme of
villainy, which must have occurred to him at a very early period of
their acquaintance. Indeed, Mr. Smoothbore hinted that the prisoner's
profession of landscape-painting was a mere pretense and pretext, and
that it was more than probable that, having heard by some means of
Trevethick's hoard, he had come down to Gethin with the express
intention of becoming possessed of it, which his accidental discovery of
the secret of the letter padlock enabled him to do. In short, by artful
innuendo at this or that part of the story, Richard was painted as a
common thief, whose possession of such faculties as dexterity and
_finesse_ only made him a more dangerous enemy of society. There had
been rumors, Mr. Smoothbore admitted, of certain romantic circumstances
connected with the case, but he was instructed to say that they were
wholly baseless, and that the matter which the jury would have to decide
upon was simply an impudent and audacious robbery, committed in a manner
that he might stigmatize as being quite exceptionally void of
The speech for the prosecution immensely disappointed the general
public, already half-convinced, in spite of themselves, by Mr.
Smoothbore's impassioned clearness and straightforward simplicity, while
it pleased the jury, who were glad to hear that the matter in hand was,
after all, an ordinary one, which would necessitate no deprivation of
victuals, nor absence of fire and candle. The witnesses for the
prosecution appeared, as usual, in an order in inverse ratio to the
interest and importance of their respective testimonies--the clerk of
the Miners' Bank into whose hands the notes had been paid, policemen,
Mr. Dodge, and others, who only repeated what we already know. Even the
appearance of Solomon Coe was marked by nothing especial, save to the
eyes of the accused. In the triumphant bearing of this witness, and in
the malignant glance which he had shot toward him ere he began his tale,
Richard read that the charge against him was to be pushed to the bitter
end. It was in this man's power, more than in any other's (save one), to
extenuate or to set down in malice; and there was no doubt in his
rival's mind (though his rancor took so blunt a form that it might well
have been mistaken by others for outspoken candor) which of the two
courses Solomon had chosen. He showed neither scruple nor hesitation;
every word was distinct and decisive, and on one occasion (though the
repetition of it was forbidden by the judge) even accompanied by a blow
with his sledge-hammer fist in the way of corroboration. It seemed that
the story he had to tell was, after all, a very plain one.
When John Trevethick, who was the last witness examined for the
prosecution, strode into the box, this feeling was intensified. His
giant frame and massive features seemed, somehow, to associate
themselves with a plain story; and his evidence was as much in
consonance with his counsel's speech as evidence could be with pleading.
But when he had quite done with his unvarnished tale, and when Mr.
Smoothbore had given him a parting nod in sign that _he_ had done with
him, Sergeant Balais rose, for the first time, with an uplifted finger,
as though, but for that signal of delay, the honest landlord would have
fled incontinently, and hanged himself, like another Judas.
"You have a daughter, I believe, Mr. Trevethick?" and the Sergeant
looked at the jury, with elevated eyebrows, as though he would have
said, "If we can get even that admission out of this hoary miscreant, we
may consider ourselves fortunate."
And indeed John Trevethick did hesitate for one instant ere he replied.
He had not even looked at the prisoner before, but at that question he
gave an involuntary glance toward him, and met Richard's answering look.
When two men are fighting, each with his hands upon the throat of the
other, not for dear life, but for the longed-for death of his foe, it is
possible that in their faces some such inextinguishable lurid fire of
hatred may be seen burning as then flashed from witness-box to dock,
from dock to witness-box; but scarcely under any other circumstances
could such a look of deadly malice be exchanged between man and man. It
passed, however, in an instant, like the electric fire, and was gone,
leaving no trace behind it.
"I _have_ a daughter," replied Trevethick; and as he spoke his face,
though somewhat pale, became as blank and hard and meaningless as a wall
"This man is about to perjure himself," thought the experienced Mr.
Balais; and he looked around him with the air of one who was convinced
of the fact.
"The prisoner at the bar was, I believe, your daughter's lover, was he
"Not that I knew of."
"Not that you know of?" repeated Mr. Balais. "Will you venture to repeat
"The witness said _knew_," interposed the judge, demurely, and ordered a
sky-light to be closed, the draught from which inconvenienced him. Every
body looked at the officer of the court who pulled the string and shut
the sky-light, as though it had been the most ingenious contrivance
known to man. Not that it was a relief to them to do so, but from that
inexplicable motive which prompts us all to observe trivial
circumstances with which we have nothing whatever to do, on any occasion
of engrossing interest. Even Richard regarded this little process of
ventilation with considerable concern, and wondered whether the judge
would feel himself better after it.
"Oh, you didn't know of this attachment between the prisoner and your
daughter at the time it was going on under your roof, but you knew of it
afterward, did you? You read of it in the papers, I suppose, eh?"
"I heard of it, after the robbery was discovered, from my daughter
"And, upon your oath, you did not know of it before then?"
"I did not."
"Nor suspect it even, perhaps?"
"Nor even suspect it."
Mr. Balais smiled, shrugged his shoulders. His principles of oratory
were Demosthenean; his motto was "Action, action, action." His. friends
on circuit called him the Balais of action. He had had some experience
of the depravity of human nature, said the shrug, but this beat every
thing, and would be really amusing but for its atrocious infamy. Good
"Then you never had any conversation with the prisoner with reference
to your daughter at all?"
Mr. Balais bent down and interchanged a word or two with Mr. Weasel
"Now be so good as to give me your best attention, Mr. Trevethick, for
upon my next question more may depend than you may be aware of. If you
have any regard for your own interests you will answer it truly; for as
"Is this necessary, Brother Balais?" interrupted the judge, scratching
his forehead with his forefinger, and looking up at the sky-light, as
though that matter was not satisfactorily settled even yet.
"My lud, I am instructed that nothing less than a conspiracy has been
entered into against my unfortunate client."
The judge nodded slightly, shivered considerably, and made a mental note
to complain of that infernal draught before he should dismiss the grand
"I ask you, Mr. Trevethick," continued the counsel, solemnly, "whether
or not, in a conversation which you held with the prisoner upon a
certain day last month, you mentioned two thousand pounds as the sum you
must needs see in his possession before you could listen to any
proposition of his with respect to your daughter's hand?"
"I did not."
"You never spoke of that particular sum to him at all?"
"Never at all."
It was Mr. Balais who looked up at the sky-light this time--as though he
expected a thunder-bolt.
"The notes, of which we have heard so much, as being hoarded in this
ingenious box of yours--and that you are a very ingenious man, Mr.
Trevethick, there is no doubt--this box, I say, was kept in a certain
cupboard, was it not?"
"And now, please to look at the jury when you answer me this question:
Where was this particular cupboard situated, Mr. Trevethick?"
Into the landlord's impassive face there stole for the first time a look
of disquiet, and his harsh, monotonous voice grew tremulous as he
replied, "The cupboard was in my daughter's bedroom."
"That will do, Mr. Trevethick, _for the present_," observed Mr. Balais,
with emphasis; "though I shall probably have the opportunity of seeing
you another time"--and he glanced significantly toward the dock--"_in
FOR THE DEFENSE.
When Mr. Balais rose again it was to speak for the defense, and he
addressed the jury amidst an unbroken silence. So rapt, indeed, was the
attention of his audience that the smack of a carter's whip, as he went
by in the street below, was resented by many a frown as an impertinent
intrusion; and even the quarters of the church clock were listened to
with impatience, lest its iron tongue should drown a single sentence.
This latter interruption did not, however, often take place, for Mr.
Balais was as brief in speech as he was energetic in action. He began by
at once allowing the main facts which the prosecution had proved--that
the notes had been taken from Trevethick's box, and found in the
prisoner's possession, who had been detected in the very act of
endeavoring to change them for notes of another banking company. But
what he maintained was, that this exchange was not, as Mr. Smoothbore
had suggested, effected for the purpose of realizing the money, but
simply of throwing dust in the prosecutor's eyes. He had changed the
notes only with the intention of returning his own money to Trevethick
under another form. Even so young a man, and one so thoroughly ignorant
of the ways of the world and of business matters as was his client, must
surely have been aware, if using the money for himself had been his
object, that it could be traced in notes of the Mining Company as easily
as in notes of the Bank of England; nay, by this very proceeding of his,
he had even given them a _double_ chance of being traced. He (Mr.
Balais) was not there, of course, to justify the conduct of the prisoner
at the bar. It was unjustifiable, it was reprehensible in a very high
degree; but what he did maintain was that, even taking for granted all
that had been put in evidence, this young man's conduct was not
criminal; it was not that of a thief. He had never had the least
intention of stealing this money; his scheme had been merely a stratagem
to obtain the object of his affections for his wife. This Trevethick was
a hard and grasping man, and it was necessary for the young fellow to
satisfy him that he was possessed of certain property before he would
listen to any proposition for his daughter's hand. His idea--a wrong and
foolish one, indeed, but then look at his youth and inexperience--was to
impose upon this old miser, by showing him his own money in another
form, and then, when he had gained his object, to return it to him. Mr.
Balais was, for his own part, as certain of such being the fact as that
he was standing in that court-house. Let them turn their eyes on the
unhappy prisoner in the dock, and judge for themselves whether he looked
like the mere felon which his learned friend had painted him, or the
romantic, self-deceiving, thoughtless lad, such as he (Mr. Balais) felt
convinced he was. They had all heard of the proverb that all things were
fair in love as in war. When the jury had been young themselves perhaps
some of them had acted upon that theory; at all events, it was not an
unnatural idea for young people to act upon. Proverbs had always a
certain weight and authority of their own. They were not necessarily
Holy Writ (Mr. Balais was not quite certain whether the proverb in
question was one of Solomon's own or not, so he put it in this cautious
manner), but they smacked of it. This Richard Yorke, perhaps, had
thought it no great harm to win his love by a false representation of
the state of his finances. He could not see his way how otherwise
to melt the stony heart of this old curmudgeon, who had
doubtless--notwithstanding the evidence they had heard from him that
day--encouraged the young man's addresses so long as he believed him to
be Mr. Carew's lawful heir. The whole question, in fact, resolved itself
into one of _motive_; and if there was not a word of evidence
forthcoming upon the prisoner's part, he (Mr. Balais) would have left
the case in the jury's hands, with the confident conviction that they
would never impute to that unhappy boy--who had already suffered such
tortures of mind and body as were more than a sufficient punishment for
his offense--the deliberate and shameful crime of which he stood
accused. He had lost his position in the world already; he had lost his
sweetheart, for they had all heard that day that she was about to be
driven into wedlock with his rival, a man twice his age and hers; he had
lost the protection of his father--his own flesh and blood--for since
this miserable occurrence he had chosen to disown him; and yet here was
the prosecutor, who had lost nothing (except his own self-respect, and
the respect of all who had listened to his audacious testimony that
morning), pressing for a conviction, for more punishment; in a word, for
the gratification of a mean revenge. If he (Mr. Balais) had nothing
more, therefore, to urge in his client's defense, he would have been
content to leave the jury to deal with this case--Englishmen, who
detested oppression, and loved that justice only which is tempered with
mercy. But as it so happened, there was no need thus to leave it; no
necessity to appeal to mercy at all. He had only to ask them for the
barest justice. He was happily in a position to prove that the prisoner
at the bar had no more stolen this two thousand pounds than their own
upright and sagacious foreman.
A sigh of relief was uttered from a hundred gentle breasts. "We are
coming to something at last," it seemed to say. A hundred fair faces
looked at Mr. Balais--who was growing gray and wrinkled, and found every
new performance of his pantomime harder and harder--as though they could
have kissed him, nevertheless. "Yes, gentlemen of the jury, that money
was given to him by the prosecutor's daughter with her own hand."
A murmur of satisfaction ran round the court-house.
There _was_ a romance--a love-story--in the case, then, after all.
Mr. Balais concluded a most energetic speech with a peroration of great
brilliancy, in which Richard and Harry were exhibited like a
transparency in the bright colors of Youth, and Hope, and Passion, and
finally sat down amidst what would have been a burst of applause but for
the harsh voice of the usher nipping it in the bud by proclaiming
There was no need for his doing that when Mr. Balais jumped up to his
feet again, as though he were on springs, and called for Harry
Trevethick. The judge was taking snuff at the time; and such was the
stillness that you could hear the overplus falling on the paper before
him on which he wrote down his notes. There was a minute's delay, during
which every eye was fixed upon the witness-box, and then Harry appeared.
She was very pale, and wore a look of anxious timidity; but a bright
spot came into her cheeks as she turned her face to the prisoner in the
dock, and smiled upon him. From that moment Richard felt that he was
safe. Guarded as he was, and still in peril, he forgot his danger, and
once more resolved that he would cleave to this tender creature, to whom
he was about to owe his safety, to his life's end.
Harry was simply yet attractively attired in a pale violet silk dress,
with a straw bonnet trimmed with the same modest color. It was observed,
with reference to this and to the innocence and gentleness of her
expression, that she looked like a dove; and a dove she seemed to
Richard, bringing him the signal that the flood was abating, the deep
waters of which had so nearly overwhelmed both soul and body. Even the
judge, as Mr. Weasel had foretold, regarded her through his double
glasses with critical approval; for a most excellent judge he was--of
Mr. Balais smiled triumphantly at the jury. "Did I not tell you," he
seemed to say, "that my client is guiltless in this matter? Here is
Truth herself come to witness in his favor. Bless her!" Richard's
feverish eyes were fixed upon her; he knew no God, but here was his
spring in the wilderness, his shadow of the great rock in a weary land.
As for her, she looked only at the judge, expecting--poor little
ignoramus--that it was he who would question her.
"You are the daughter of John Trevethick, of Gethin?" said Mr. Balais.
This interrogatory, simple as it was, made her color rise, coming from
that unexpected quarter.
"He keeps an inn, does he not; the"--here Mr. Balais affected to consult
his brief, to give her time to recover herself from her modest
confusion--"the _Gethin Castle_, I believe?"
"The prisoner at the bar has been staying there for some months, has he
She stole another look at Richard: it spoke as plainly as looks could
speak, "Oh yes; that is how I came to know and love him." But she only
murmured, "Yes, Sir."
"Speak up, Miss Trevethick," said the counsel, encouragingly; "these
twelve gentlemen are all very anxious to hear what you have to say." The
judge nodded and smiled, as though in corroboration, as well as to add,
upon his own account, that it would give _him_ also much pleasure to
"Was the prisoner staying in the inn as an ordinary guest, or did he mix
with the family?"
"He was in the bar parlor most nights, Sir, along with father and me and
"He was in the bar parlor most nights," repeated Mr. Balais,
significantly, for he was anxious that the jury should catch that
answer--"'With father and me and Solomon.' And who introduced him into
"Father brought him first, Sir, on the second day after he came to
"Father brought him in, did he? Now, that is rather an unusual thing for
the landlord of an inn to do, is it not? To introduce a young man whom
he had known but twenty-four hours to his family circle, and to the
society of his daughter, eh?"
"Please, Sir, I don't know, Sir."
"No, of course you don't, Miss Trevethick; how should you? But I think
the jury know. You have no idea, then, yourself, why your father
introduced this young gentleman to you so early?"
"Father said he was a friend of Mr. Carew's, of Crompton, who is
"Just so," said Mr. Balais, with another significant glance at the
attentive twelve. "Mr. Trevethick had already discovered that this youth
was of a good social position, and likely to prove an excellent match.
'Will you walk into my parlor?' said the spider to the fly; 'I have the
prettiest daughter that ever you did spy.'"
Every body tittered at this except Mr. Smoothbore and his solicitor;
even the judge blew his nose.
"Now, not only did the prisoner at the bar spend most nights in the bar
parlor, but, as I am given to understand, he spent most days there, or,
at all events, in your society, did he not?"
"Father and Solomon were away most days, Sir, and so we were left a good
"Just so. Your father took care to be away most days, did he, in order
that you should be left a good deal together?"
Mr. Smoothbore started to his feet. "My lud, I submit," etc.; meaning
that this was a mode of interrogating the witness that he could _not_
submit to for an instant.
"Very good," said Mr. Balais, smiling. "I will not put the question in
that form, then. The form is of very little consequence. You were left
together, however, and the consequence was that you two young people
fell in love with one another, eh?"
Harry was crimson. "I--he--we;" and there she stuck.
"I am very sorry to embarrass you, my dear young lady, but I am
necessitated to press this question. Did you fall in love with one
another or not?"
No answer. Harry was thinking of Solomon, to whom she was to be married
within ten days, and hung her head.
"Come, did he fall in love with _you_, then? There was ample apology for
it, I am sure, and he ought to have been ashamed of himself if he
hadn't. Now, did he 'court' you? I think you must know what that means."
No answer. Every eye was upon her, the judge's double glasses included.
They might have been burning-glasses, she felt so hot and frightened.
"Come, did this young gentleman ever give you a kiss?"
"Yes, Sir," murmured poor Harry, almost under her breath.
"Did you say 'Yes' or 'No?'" inquired the judge, dipping his pen in the
"I said 'Yes,' my lord," said the unhappy Harry.
"There were more kisses than one, now, I dare say," said Mr. Balais,
with a wink at the jury; "and they were not all on one side, eh?"
"Some of them were on the other side, were they not? I don't mean on the
other cheek, for I have no doubt he was perfectly indifferent as to
Again there was a little titter.
"She is your own witness, Brother Balais," observed his lordship, "but
it seems to me you are giving her unnecessary pain."
He had a very tender heart, had the old judge, where a young and pretty
woman was concerned--otherwise he was a Tartar.
"My lud, it is absolutely necessary to prove that my client's passion
was reciprocated. Did you ever return one of these many kisses, Miss
"Did you ever meet him alone at night in a place, I believe, called the
"Yes," repeated Mr. Balais, recapitulating these facts upon his fingers;
"you were left alone with him all day; you met him alone at night, away
from your father's roof; you returned his kisses; and all this without
the slightest suspicion--if we are to believe his evidence--being
aroused upon the part of your parent. Now, Miss Trevethick, you were
aware that your father kept a large sum of money--these two thousand
pounds--in his strong-box, were you not?"
"I was, Sir."
"Did you ever speak to the prisoner at the bar about it?"
"I think--yes, I did, Sir, on one occasion," and here Harry's voice
fluttered and faltered. No one noticed it, however, except the prisoner;
if any neighbor eyes had watched him narrowly--but they were all fixed
upon the witness--they would have seen his face whiten, and his brow
grow damp. Why should she have laid that stress upon "on one occasion?"
"You told him that the two thousand pounds were in the box in the
cupboard in your bedroom?"
"I did, Sir."
"The fastening of the box was not an ordinary lock, I believe. It was
what is called a letter padlock?"
"Did you ever open it?"
A great bell seemed to be suddenly set tolling in Richard's brain--it
was the knell of all his hopes.
"You had never opened it at that time, eh?" continued Mr. Balais,
cheerfully. "But you learned the secret afterward?"
"Do you remember the letters that did open it?"
"What were they?"
"B, N, Z."
"Very good. We have heard from the counsel for the prosecution that they
were so; and that Mr. Trevethick kept a memorandum of them on a piece of
paper that fitted into his watch-case. Did he always carry that watch
about with him?"
"Not always. When he went out to market, and was likely to be late, he
sometimes left it at home."
"In his own room, I suppose, where you or any body else could get at
"I suppose so, Sir."
"You _suppose_? You know he did, do you not? Did you not open the
watch-case yourself, and so discover the means of unlocking the box?"
"No, Sir," said Harry, faintly; and once more she turned her eyes to
Richard. It was a true and tender glance, one would have said, and
accompanied by an attempt at a smile of encouragement. But if it had
been a glance of a gorgon, it could not have had a more appalling
effect; it literally seemed to turn him into stone.
[Illustration: "COME, DID THE YOUNG GENTLEMAN EVER GIVE YOU A KISS?"]
"Recollect yourself, Miss Trevethick," said Mr. Balais, earnestly; "you
are getting confused, I fear. Now please to give me your attention. You
say that you knew that the letters B, N, Z were those which formed the
key of the letter padlock, and yet that you did not open your father's
watch-case. How, then, did you become possessed of the secret?"
No answer. Harry caught her breath convulsively, and turned deadly pale.
She could never tell how Mrs. Yorke had endeavored to suborn her.
"Well, well, this is a matter of very little consequence--though I see
my learned friend is making a copious note of it," said Mr. Balais,
gayly. "The main point is what, as you have told us, did occur--that you
found out the secret somehow. When you got it, I suppose you opened the
No answer, save from Mr. Smoothbore, who observed, tartly: "You have no
right to assume that, Sergeant."
"Let the young woman have a glass of water," suggested the kindly judge.
"My lord, my lord!" cried Harry, with sudden passion, "he is not guilty.
Richard did not mean to steal the money; indeed he did not. He only
wished to get possession of it that my father might believe him to be a
man of wealth. He did but--"
"Endeavor to compose yourself, young woman," interposed the judge. "The
learned counsel will only ask what is necessary."
"Take your time. Miss Trevethick, take your time," pursued Mr. Balais,
in his blandest tones. "The question is, how the prisoner became
possessed of this money. Now, tell us, did you not give it him with your
The bell was still tolling in Richard's brain, and yet he could hear the
buzzing of a fly against a window of the court-house, and the careless
whistle of some lad in the street without. It was the same tune that the
keeper at Crompton had been wont to whistle in his leisure moments at
home; and his mind reverted with a flash to the glades of the stately
park, the herds of deer, the high-mossed gate, which he had shut in the
face of the hounds when they were chasing Carew's carriage. Was it the
bang of the gate, or had Harry really answered in a firm voice, that
resounded through the silent court-house, "No, Sir?"
"What!" said Mr. Balais, raising his voice a little. "Do you mean to
say, then--and recollect that the fate of the prisoner at the bar may
depend upon your reply to this question--that Richard Yorke did not
become possessed of these notes by your connivance, through your means,
"No, Sir, no," answered Harry, passionately; "I can't say that; indeed,
Sir, I can not. But he is innocent--Richard is innocent--he never meant
to steal them. O God, help me!" In her excitement, and not because she
wished to do so, she had turned about, and once more caught sight of the
prisoner at the bar. It was her turn now to shrink appalled and
petrified. It was not reproach that she saw pictured in that well-loved
face, but downright hate and loathing. "He will never, never forgive
me!" cried she, with a piteous wail; and then scream followed scream,
and she was borne out in haste, and a doctor sent for.
Cross-examination was, of course, quite out of the question; and,
indeed, Mr. Smoothbore was much too sagacious a man to wish to exercise
that privilege. The failure of the witness for the defense had proved
the case of the prosecution.
It was Mr. Smoothbore who could now best afford to praise the innocence
and candor of the unhappy Harry. Was it not evident that that tender
creature had been tampered with, and almost persuaded to perjure
herself, for the sake of the prisoner at the bar--almost, but, happily
for the ends of justice, not quite persuaded! Her natural love of right
had conquered the ignoble passion with which she had been inspired by
this unscrupulous man. What words could sufficiently paint the baseness
of the conduct of the accused! Was it not clear that he had endeavored
to escape scot-free, at the sacrifice of this poor girl's good name?
_She_, forsooth, was to proclaim herself thief, to save his worthless
self! It was not for Mr. Smoothbore--Heaven forbid!--to exaggerate such
wickedness, but was it possible that the phrase, "Young in years, but
old in vice," had ever had a more appropriate application than in the
present case! For the credit of human nature, he trusted not. The point
upon which his learned friend had mainly relied having been thus proved
wholly untenable--the fact of Richard's taking the money having been
incontestably brought home to him--it only remained for him (Mr.
Smoothbore) to notice what had been said with respect to motive. If the
prisoner at the bar had even had the intention, which had been so
gratuitously imputed to him, of returning this money to the prosecutor,
when once the object of his supposed scheme had been effected, he would
be no less guilty of the crime that was laid to his charge. It was
possible, indeed, in such a case, that there might be extenuating
circumstances, but those would not affect the verdict of the jury,
however they might influence his lordship's sentence after that verdict
had been truly given. And this he would say, after what had just
occurred in that court--after the painful scene they had just
witnessed--the breaking down of that innocent girl in an act of
self-sacrifice, culpable in itself, but infinitely more culpable in him
who had incited her to do it--for he could not for an instant suppose
that the prisoner's legal advisers could have suggested such a line of
defense: taking all this into consideration, he, Mr. Smoothbore, would
confidently ask the jury whether the prisoner at the bar was to be
credited with merely a romantic stratagem, or with a crime the
heinousness of which was only exceeded by the means by which he had
striven to exculpate himself from it, and to evade the ends of justice.
When Mr. Smoothbore had thus concluded a lengthened and impassioned
harangue, he sat down, wiping his hands upon his handkerchief, as though
implying that he had washed them of the prisoner for good and all, and
that a very dirty job it had been; while the judge rose and left the
court, it being the hour appointed to his system, by nature, for the
reception of lunch.
Richard remained in the dock. The warder who had charge of him gave him
the option of retiring, but he preferred to stay where he was till all
was over. He had at last caught sight of his mother, straining her
loving eyes toward him--with still some hope in them--from a distant
corner of the gallery; and he kept his gaze fixed upon that spot. They
had all the world against them now, these two, so clever, and yet so
wholly unable to combat with inexorable fate. Harry's evidence, and
especially the manner of it, had not needed Mr. Smoothbore's fiery scorn
to turn all hearts against the accused. To the great mass of spectators
it seemed as though Richard would have made the girl change places with
himself, and become a vicarious sacrifice for his worthless self.
The majesty of the law having withdrawn itself, a hum of many voices
filled the court-house; a munching of biscuits, a sipping of flasks. The
silence of suspense no longer reigned. The struggle was virtually over,
and the victim was only waiting his doom. It was hoped it would be a
severe one. The spectators were pitiless, and had turned their thumbs
toward their breasts. As to the verdict there was no doubt. Those who
knew the character of the judge opined that this young gentleman would
"get it hot," notwithstanding that this was his first offense. Odds were
taken that he would have fourteen years. "At all events," said one of
the small officials, in answer to eager inquiries, "more than he could
do on his head." With this enigmatical reply of the oracle its
astonished questioners were compelled to be content.
"Silence in the court--si-lence." The judge had returned. It was thought
by some that it was in the prisoner's favor that the judge had lunched.
They were mistaken, or perhaps a fatal economy had provided African
sherry. His charge was scarcely less dead against the prisoner than had
been Mr. Smoothbore's closing speech. As for the motive, upon which such
stress had been laid by the counsel for the defense, that might be a
plea for a recommendation to mercy, if the jury believed it, but it
could not affect the question of the prisoner's guilt. That the stolen
property had been found in the possession of the accused there was no
sort of doubt. If the prisoner at the bar had not himself taken it out
of the prosecutor's strong-box, who had?
Such was the form in which the case was left for the jury.
"It's UP," whispered Mr. Weasel behind his hand to Mr. Balais. Mr.
Balais nodded indifferently; the case was over so far as he was
concerned, and he was not going to employ significant action
gratuitously. That would have been waste of power indeed at his age. The
jury did not leave the box; they laid their heads together, like a
hydra, and "deliberated" for half a minute; that is to say, the foreman
whispered, "We can return but one verdict, I should say, gentlemen;" and
the eleven answered, "But one."
"We find the prisoner guilty, your lordship."
His lordship nodded approval. "In my opinion, gentlemen, you could not
have done otherwise. Hem!" Then that common phrase, "You could have
heard a pin drop," might have been used with respect to that vast
assemblage. That "hem!" was a very fatal sign with Mr. Justice Bantam,
as the bar well knew.
"I'll take you six to five in sovs he gives him seven years," whispered
one learned gentleman to another, without moving his lips.
"It seems to me you are rather fond of a good thing," returned the
other, scornfully, but with a like precaution.
"Hem!" said the judge again. "Is there any one in court able to give any
information concerning the antecedents of the prisoner?"
"We have no witnesses to character, my lud," said Mr. Balais, gravely;
"we had hoped it would not have been necessary."
"There _is_ a witness in court, please your lud-ship, a detective of the
A division of metropolitan police, I believe," observed Mr. Smoothbore,
"who knows something of the prisoner."
"Let him stand up," said the judge.
Here was an extra excitement--an additional attraction, which had not
been advertised in the bills--and the public evinced their satisfaction
accordingly by craning and crowding. Richard turned his heated eyes in
the direction of this new enemy. He had no hope of seeing a friend. The
individual in question was unknown to him. He was a tall, quiet-looking
man, whose face might have been carved out of box-wood, it was so hard
and serious, but for its keen eyes, which seemed to meet his own with a
look of recognition.
"I know the prisoner at the bar; that is to say, I have seen him on a
previous occasion, when he passed under the name of Chandos, and on
other occasions, as I believe, under other names. From information
received I attended a competitive examination, under the authority of
"Do you mean that you were employed by the government, or that the
examination was a government one?" interrupted the judge.
"You'll hear something now," whispered Mr. Weasel to Mr. Balais, "by
"Both, my lord," explained the witness. "It had come to the knowledge of
the government that there had been several cases of personation in the
competitive examinations recently instituted both for the military and
civil services. Not only were young gentlemen, who had apparently passed
with credit, found grossly ignorant of the subjects which they had
previously been examined upon, but their physical appearance was
sometimes such as would have seemed to have disqualified them: it
appeared incredible that they should have passed the preliminary medical
examination. One was hump-backed; another almost blind. It was
understood that some systematized scheme of imposture, of
mispersonation, was at work to produce these results, and I was
instructed to inquire into it. I did so. I came to the conclusion that
only one person was concerned in the matter--the prisoner at the bar. I
had had my suspicions of him for some time. I had seen him on three
separate occasions as a candidate at public examinations. His nomination
was correct and genuine, but (as I have since discovered) it had been
issued to another person. He succeeded in every instance in obtaining
the appointments in question for his employers, who received them in due
course, though they have, I believe, since been canceled. In the case of
Chandos, a letter was written, by the supposed successful candidate, to
the authorities of the government branch--the India Board--under which
he was to serve, so grossly misspelled that the fraud was at once
suspected. In this instance the guilt was brought home to the prisoner
by the confession of the young man Chandos himself, who paid over to him
a considerable sum of money for the service in question. But I am now in
a position to prove that on several other occasions the prisoner has
committed the same offense; and, in short, if he may be said to have a
calling, it is that of personating, at competitive examinations, young
gentlemen of small ability, who are thus enabled to secure situations
and appointments which they could otherwise never obtain."
Mr. Justice Bantam had his prejudices, but he had a fair and honest
"This is a most unlooked-for communication, Brother Balais," said he,
doubtfully; "and it is not permitted you to cross-examine upon a point
"I am sorry to say, my lud," returned Mr. Balais, after a hurried
conversation with the little attorney, "that my client is not in a
position to dispute the evidence just adduced. He prefers to throw
himself upon the mercy of the court, on the ground--a very tenable one,
I think--of his youth and," he was going to add "inexperience," but,
under the circumstances, he thought it better not--"of his extreme
youth, my lud; my unhappy client is barely eighteen years of age."
"Very good," said Mr. Justice Bantam, looking as if it could not be
worse. "Hem! Prisoner at the bar: after a careful and fair trial, in
which you have had the benefit of the best legal aid, you have been
found _guilty_ of the charge of which you are accused. In that verdict I
cordially concur. The offense was a very serious one; but the endeavor
which you have made to screen yourself, at the expense of that beautiful
and innocent young girl, is, in my opinion, still more heinous and
contemptible than the crime itself. Having made yourself master of her
affections, you used your power to the utmost to effect her moral and
social hurt. You would have had her perjure herself, and proclaim
herself guilty of a crime she did not commit, in order that you might
yourself escape justice. Nobody who heard her evidence--who saw her in
yonder box--can doubt it. Still, as your counsel has just remarked, you
are but a youth in years, and I looked about me in hopes to find some
extenuating circumstances in your past career--some record of
good--which might have justified me in inflicting on you a more lenient
sentence than your offense had earned. I had no other purpose in asking
whether any thing was known of your previous career. The reply to that
question has astonished and shocked me, as it has shocked and astonished