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NEVER saw my father again until I was in the prisoner's anteroom at the Old Bailey. It was full of lounging
men, whose fleshy limbs bulged out against the tight, loud checks of their coats and trousers. These were jailers waiting to bring in their prisoners. On the other side of the black door the Grand Jury was deliberating on my case, behind another, the court was in waiting to try me. I was in a sort of tired lull. All night I had been pacing up and down, trying to bring my brain to think of points-points in my defense. It was very difficult. I knew that I must keep cool, be calm, be lucid, be convincing; and my brain had reeled at times, even in the darkness of the cell. I knew it had reeled, because I remembered that once I had fallen against the stone of one of the walls, and once against the door. Here, in the light, with only a door between myself and the last scene, I regained my hold. I was going to fight every inch from start to finish. I was going to let no hink of their armor go untried. I was going to make a good fight. My teeth chattered like castanets, jarring in my jaws until it was painful. But that was only with the cold.
A hubbub of expostulation was going on at the third door. My turnkey called suddenly:
“Let the genman in, Charlie. Pal o' ourn,” and my father ran huntedly into the room. He began an endless tale of a hackney coachman who had stood in front of the door of his coach to prevent his number being taken; of a crowd of caddee-smashers, who had hustled him and filched his purse. “Of course, I made a fight for it,” he said, “ a damn good fight, considering. It's in the blood. But the watch came, and, in short-on such an occasion as this there is no time for words—I passed the night in the watch-house. Many and many a night I passed there when I and Lord But I am losing time.”
“You aint fit to walk the streets of London alone, sir," the turnkey said.
My father gave him a corner of his narrow-lidded eyes. “My man,” he said, “ I walked the streets with the highest in the land before your mother bore you in Bridewell, or whatever jail it was."
“Oh, no offense," the turnkey muttered. I said, “Did you find Cowper, sir? Will he give evidence?"
Jackie,” he said agitatedly, as if he were afraid of offendin me," he said you had filched his wife's rings."
That, in fact, was what Major Cowper had said that I had dropped into their ship near Port Royal Heads, and had afterwards gone away with the pirates who had filched his wife's rings. My father, in his indignation, had not even deigned to ask him for the address of Jamaica planters in London; and on his way back to find a solicitor he had come into contact with those street rowdies and the watch. He had only just come from before the magistrates.
A man with one eye poked his head suddenly from behind the Grand Jury door. He jerked his head in my direction.
True bill against that 'ere,” he said, then drew his head in again.
"Jackie, boy," my father said, putting a thin hand on my wrist, and gazing imploringly into my eyes, “ I'm .. I'm ... I can't tell you how. ...
I said, “ It doesn't matter, father." I felt a foretaste of how my past would rise up to crush me. Cowper had let that wife of his coerce him into swearing my life away. I remembered vividly his blubbering protestations of friendship when I persuaded Tomas Castro to return him his black deed-box with the brass handle, on that deck littered with rubbish. “Oh, God bless you, God bless you. You have saved me from starvation.
There had been tears in his old blue eyes. If you need it I will go anywhere ... do anything to help you. On the honor of a gentle. man and a soldier.” I had, of course, recommended his wife to give up her rings when the pirates were threatening her in the cabin. The other door opened, another man said:
'Now, then, in with that carrion. D’you want to keep the judges waiting?"
407 I stepped through the door straight down into the dock; there was a row of spikes in the front of it. I wasn't afraid ; three men in enormous wigs and ermine robes faced me; four in short wigs had their heads together like parrots on a branch. A fat man, bareheaded, with a gilt chain round his neck, slipped from behind into a seat beside the highest placed judge. He was wiping his mouth and munching with his jaws. On each side of the judges, beyond the short-wigged assessors, were chairs full of ladies and gentlemen. They all had their eyes upon me.
I saw it all very plainly. I was going to see everything, to keep my eyes open, not to let any chance escape. I wondered why a young girl with blue eyes and pink cheeks tittered and shrugged her shoulders. I did not know what was amusing. What astonished me was the smallness, the dirt, the want of dignity of the room itself. I thought they must be trying a case of my importance there by mistake. Presently I noticed a great gilt anchor above the judges' head. I wondered why it was there, until I remembered it was an Admiralty Court. I thought, suddenly, “Ah! if I had thought to tell my father to go and see if the Lion had come in in the night!”
A man was bawling out a number of names. Plimley, gent., any challenge.. .. Lazarus Cohen, merchant, any challenge..
The turnkey beside me leant with his back against the spikes. He was talking to the man who had called us in.
“ Lazarus Cohen, West Indian merchant. Lord, well, I'd challenge. .. The other man said, “S—sh.”
His old dad give me five shiners to put him up to a thing if I could," the turnkey said again.
I didn't catch his meaning until an old man with a very ragged gown was handing up a book to a row of others in a box so near that I could almost have touched them. Then I realized that the turnkey had been winking to me to challenge the jury. I called out at the highest of the judges:
"I protest against that jury. It is packed. Half of them, at least, are West Indian merchants."
There was a stir all over the court. I realized then that what
had seemed only a mass of stuffs of some sort were human beings all looking at me. The judge I had called to opened a pair of dim eyes upon me, clasped and unclasped his hands, very dry, ancient, wrinkled. The judge on his right called angrily:
Nonsense, it is too late. They are being sworn. You should have spoken when the names were read." Underneath his wig was
an immensely broad face with glaring yellow eyes.
I said, It is scandalous. You want to murder me. How should I know what you do in your courts? I say the jury is packed."
The very old judge closed his eyes, opened them again, then gasped out: Silence. We are here to try you.
This is a court of law.”
The turnkey pulled my sleeve under cover of the planking. "Treat him civil,” he whispered, “Lord Justice Stowell of the Hadmir'lty. "Tother's Baron Garrow of the Common Law; a beast; him as hanged that kid. You can sass him; it doesn't matter.”
Lord Stowell waved his hand to the clerk with the ragged gown; the book passed from hand to hand along the faces of the jury, the clerk gabbling all the while. The old judge said suddenly, in an astonishingly deep, majestic voice:
“Prisoner at the bar, you must understand that we are here to give you an impartial trial according to the laws of this land. If you desire advice as to the procedure of this court you can have it.”
I said, “I still protest against that jury. I am an innocent man,
andHe answered querulously, “Yes, yes, afterwards.” And then creaked, “Now the indictment.
Someone hidden from me by three barristers began to read in a loud voice not very easy to follow. I caught:
"For that the said John Kemp, alias Nichols, alias Nikola el Escoces, alias el Demonio, alias el Diabletto, on the twelfth of May last, did feloniously and upon the high seas piratically seize a certain ship called the Victoria
um, the proper
ties of Hyman Cohen and others and did steal and take: therefrom six hundred and thirty barrels of coffee of the value of
one hundred and one barrels of coffee of the value of ninety-four half kegs . . . and divers others ...
I gave an immense sigh. ... That was it, then. I had heard of the Victoria; it was when I was at Horton that the news of her loss reached us. Old Macdonald had sworn; it was the day a negro called Apollo had taken to the bush. I ought to be able to prove that. Afterwards, one of the judges asked me if I pleaded guilty or not guilty. I began a long wrangle about being John Kemp but not Nikola el Escoces. I was going to fight every inch of the way. They said:
“ You will have your say afterwards. At present, guilty or not guilty ?”
I refused to plead at all; I was not the man. The third judge woke up, and said hurriedly:
“That is a plea of not guilty, enter it as such.” Then he went to sleep again. The young girl on the bench beside him laughed joyously, and Mr. Baron Garrow nodded round at her, then snapped viciously at me:
"You don't make your case any better by this sort of foolery." His eyes glared at me like an awakened owl's.
I said, "I'm fighting for my neck... and you'll have to fight, too, to get it."
The old judge said angrily, “Silence, or you will have to be removed.”
I said, “I am fighting for my life."
Lord Stowell said, “Yes, yes;" and then, “Now, Mr. King's Advocate, I suppose Mr. Alfonso Jervis opens for you.”
A dusty wig swam up from just below my left hand, almost to a level with the dock.
The old judge shut his eyes, with an air of a man who is going a long journey in a post-chaise. Mr. Baron Garrow dipped his pen into an invisible ink-pot, and scratched it on his desk. A long story began to drone from under the wig, an interminable farrago of dull nonsense, in a hypochondriacal voice; a long tale about