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I should be altered for good and all. I should never see the breathless dawn in the pondwater of Havana harbour, never be there with Seraphina close beside me in the little drogher. All that remained was to see this fight through, and then have done with fighting. I remember the intense bitterness of that feeling and the oddity of it all; of the one “I” that felt like that, of the other that was raving in front of a lot of openeyed idiots, three old judges, and a young girl. And, in a queer way, the thoughts of the one “I” floated through into the words of the other, that seemed to be waving its hands in its final struggle, a little way in front of me.
“Look at me..look at what they have made of me, one and the other of them. I was an innocent boy. What am I now? They have taken my life from me, let them finish it how they will, what does it matter to me, what do I care?”
There was a rustle of motion all round the court. On board Rowley's flagship the heavy irons had sawed open my wrists. I hadn't been ironed in Newgate, but the things had healed up very little. I happened
to look down at my claws of hands with the grime of blood that the dock spikes had caused.
“What sort of a premium is it that you set on sticking to the right? Is this how you are going to encourage the others like me? What do I care about your death? What's life to me? Let them get their scaffold ready. I have suffered enough to be put out of my misery. God, I have suffered enough with one and another. Look at my hands, I say. Look at my wrists, and say if I care any more.” I held my ghastly paws high, and the candle light shone upon them. . Out of the black shadows came shrieks of women and curses. I saw my young girl put her hands over her face and slip slowly, very slowly, from her chair, down out of sight. People were staggering in different directions. I had had more to say, but I forgot in my concern for the young girl. The turnkey pulled my sleeve and said:
“I say, that ain't true, is it, it ain't true?” Because he seemed not to want it to have been true, I glowed for a moment with the immense pride of my achievement. I had made them see things.
A minute after, I understood how futile it was. I was not a fool even in my then half-mad condition. The real feeling of the place came back upon me, the “Court of Law” of it. The King's Advocate was whispering to the Attorney-General, he motioned with his hand, first in my direction, then towards the jury; then they both laughed and nodded. They knew the ropes too well for me, and there were seven West India merchants up there who would remember their pockets in a minute. But I didn't care. I had made them see things.
I HAD shot my bolt and I was going to die; I could see it in the way the King's Advocate tossed his head back, fluttered his bands, looked at the jury-box, and began to play with the seals on his fob. The court had resumed its stillness. A man in some sort of livery passed a square paper to the Lord Mayor, the Lord Mayor passed it to Lord Stowell, who opened it with a jerking motion of an ancient fashion that impressed me immensely. It was as if ), there at the end of my life, were looking at a man opening a letter of the reign of Queen Anne. The shadows of his ancient, wrinkled face changed as he read, raising his eyebrows and puckering his mouth. He handed the unfolded paper to Mr. Baron Garrow, then with one wrinkled finger beckoned the Attorney-General to him. The third judge was still asleep.
“What the devil's this?” the turnkey beside me said to his companion.
I was in a good deal of pain, and felt sickly that every pulse of my heart throbbed in my mangled hand. The other spat straight in front of him.
"Damme if I know,” he said. “This cursed business ought to have been over and done with an hour agone. I told Jinks to have my rarebit and noggin down by the gate-house fire at half-past five, and it's six now.”
They began an interminable argument under their breaths.
"It's that wager of Lord March's ... run a mile, walk a mile, eat five pounds of mutton, drink five pints of claret. No, it ain't ... Medmenham coach ain't in yet i .. roads too heavy. . . . It is. What else would stop the Court at this time of night? It isn't, or Justice Best 'd be awake and hedging his bets.”
In a dizzy way I noted the Attorney-General making his way carefully back between the benches to his knot of barristers, and their wigs went all together in a bunch like ears of corn drawn suddenly into a sheaf. The heads of the other barristers were like unreaped ears. A man with a face like a weasel's called to a man with a face like a devil's—he was leaving the court-something about an ambassador. The other stopped, turned, and deposited his bag again. I heard the deep voice of Sir Robert Gifford say: “What!... Never! . . . too infamous, . . .” and then the interest and the light seemed to flicker out together. I could hardly see. Voices called out to each other, harsh, dry, as if their owners had breathed nothing but dust for years and years.
One loud one barked, “You can't hear him, m'luds; in Rex v. Marsupenstein....”
A lot began calling all together, “Ah, but that was different, Mr. Attorney. You couldn't subpoena him, he being in the position of extra lege commune. But if he offers a statement. . . .”
The candles seemed to be waving deliberately like elm-tops in a high wind.
Someone called, “Clerk, fetch me volume xiii. ... I think we shall find there.... You recollect the case of Hildeshein v. Roe. . . . Wasn't it Hildegaulen and another, m’lud?" .. . “I tried the case myself. The Prussian Plenipotentiary. . . .”
I wanted to call out to them that it was not worth while to try their dry throats any more; that having shot my bolt, I gave in. But I could not think of any words, I was so tired. “I didn't sleep at all last night," I found myself saying to myself.
The sleeping judge woke up suddenly and snarled, “Why in Heaven's name don't we get on? We shall be all night. Let him call the second name on the list. We can take the Spanish ambassador when you have settled. For my part I think we ought to hear him. . . .”
Lord Stowell said suddenly, “Prisoner at the bar, some gentlemen have volunteered statements on your behalf. If you wish it, they can be called.”
I didn't answer; I did not understand; I wanted to tell him I did not care, because the Lion was posted as overdue and Seraphina was drowned. The Court seemed to be moving slowly up and down in front of me like the deck of a ship. I thought I was bound again, and on the sofa in the gorgeous cabin of the Madre-de-Dios. Someone seemed to be calling, “Prisoner at the bar... Prisoner at the bar. ..." It was as if the candles had been lit in front of the Madonna with the pink child, only she had a gilt anchor instead of the spiky gilt glory above her head. Somebody was saying, “Hello there. . . . Hold up! ... Here, bring a chair, . . .” and there were arms around me. Afterwards I sat down. A very old judge's voice said something rather kindly, I thought. I knew it was the very old judge, because he was called the star of Cuban law. Someone would be bending over me soon, with a lanthorn, and I should be wiping the flour out of my eyes and blinking at the red velvet and gilding of the cabin ceiling. In a minute Carlos and Castro would come ... or was it O'Brien who would come? No, O'Brien was dead;