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I walked between my captors across the street amongst hooting knots of people, and up the steps of the portico, as if in a frightful dream.
In the gloomy, chilly hall they made me wait. A soldier stood on each side of me, and there, absolutely before my eyes on a little table, reposed Mrs. Williams' shawl and Sebright's cap. This was the very hall of the Palace of Justice of which Sebright had spoken. It was more than ever like an absurd dream, now. But I had the leisure to collect my wits. I could not claim the Consul's protection simply because I should have to give him a truthful account of myself, and that would mean giving up Seraphina. The Consul could not protect her. But the Lion would sail on the morrow. Sebright would understand it if Williams did not. I trusted Sebright's sagacity. Yes, she would sail tomorrow evening. A day and a half. If I could only keep the knowledge of Seraphina from O'Brien till then-she was safe, and I should be safe, too, for my lips would be unsealed. I could claim the protection of my Consul and proclaim the villainy of the Juez.
“Go in there now, Señor, to be confronted with your accuser," said the official in black, appearing before me. He pointed at a small door to the left. My heart was beating steadily. I felt a sort of intrepid resignation.
“Why have I been brought here, your worships?” I asked, with a great deal of firmness.
There were two figures in black, the one beside, the other behind a large black table. I was placed in front of them, between two soldiers, in the centre of a large, gaunt room, with bare, dirty walls, and the arms of Spain above the judge's seat.
“You are before the Juez de la Primiera Instancia," said the man in black beside the table. He wore a large and shadowy tricorn. “Be silent, and respect the procedure."
It was, without doubt, excellent advice. He whispered some words in the ear of the Judge of the First Instance. It was plain enough to me that the judge was a quite inferior official, who merely decided whether there were any case against the accused; he had, even to his clerk, an air of timidity, of doubt.
I said, “But I insist on knowing. ...
The clerk said, “In good time....” And then, in the same tone of disinterested official routine, he spoke to the Lugareño, who, from beside the door, rolled very frightened eyes from the judges and the clerk to myself and the soldiers—“Advance.”
The judge, in a hurried, perfunctory voice, put questions to the Lugareño; the clerk scratched with a large quill on a sheet of paper.
“Where do you come from?”
“Excellency—a few goats. ..." “Why are you here?”
“My daughter, Excellency, married Pepe of the posada in the Calle. . . ."
The judge said, “Yes, yes,” with an unsanguine impatience. The Lugareño's dirty hands jumped nervously on the large rim of his limp hat.
“You lodge a complaint against the señor there." The clerk pointed the end of his quill towards me.
“I? God forbid, Excellency,” the Lugareño bleated. “The Alguazil of the Criminal Court instructed me to be watchful. . . ."
“You lodge an information, then?” the juez said.
“Maybe it is an information, Excellency,” the Lugareño answered, “as regards the señor there.”
The Alguazil of the Criminal Court had told him, and many other men of Rio Medio, to be on the watch for me, “undoubtedly touching what had happened, as all the world knew, in Rio Medio."
He looked me full in the face with stupid insolence, and said:
“At first I much doubted, for all the world said this man was dead—though others said worse things. Perhaps, who knows?”
He had seen me, he said, many times in Rio Medio, outside the Casa; on the balcony of the Casa, too. And he was sure that I was a heretic and an evil person.
It suddenly struck me that this man-I was undoubtedly familiar with his face-must be the lieutenant of Manuel-del-Popolo, his boon companion. Without doubt, he had seen me on the balcony of the Casa.
He had gained a lot of assurance from the conciliatory manner of the Juez, and said suddenly, in a tentative way: