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“An evil person; a heretic? Who knows? Perhaps it was he who incited some people there to murder his señoria, the illustrious Don."
I said almost contemptuously, “Surely the charge against me is most absurd? Everyone knows who I
The old judge made a gentle, tired motion with his hand.
“Señor,” he said, “there is no charge against youexcept that no one knows who you are. You were in a place where very lamentable and inexplicable things happened; you are now in Havana: you have no passport. I beg of you to remain calm. These things are all in order."
I hadn't any doubt that, as far as he knew, he was speaking the truth. He was a man, very evidently, of a weary and naïve simplicity. Perhaps it was really true that I should only have to explain; perhaps it was all over.
O'Brien came into the room with the casual step of an official from an office entering another's room.
It was as if seeing me were a thing that he very much disliked—that he came because he wanted to satisfy himself of my existence, of my identity, and my being alone. The slow stare that he gave me did not mitigate the leisureliness of his entry. He walked behind the table; the judge rose with immense deference; with his eternal smile, and no word spoken, he motioned the judge to resume the examination; he stood looking at the clerk's notes meditatively, the smile still round lips that had a nervous tremble, and eyes that had dark marks beneath them. He seemed as if he were still smiling just after having been violently shaken.
The judge went on examining the Lugareño. “Do you know whence the señor came?”
“Excellency, excellency. ." The man stuttered, his eyes on O'Brien's face.
“Nor how long he was in the town of Rio Medio?" the judge went on.
O'Brien suddenly drooped towards his ear. “All those things are known, señor, my colleague,” he said, and began to whisper.
The old judge showed signs of very naïve astonishment and joy.
“Is it possible?” he exclaimed. “This man? He is very young to have committed such crimes.”
The clerk hurriedly left the room. He returned with many papers. O'Brien, leaning over the judge's shoulder, emphasized words with one finger. What new villainies could O'Brien be meditating? It wasn't possibly the Lugareño's suggestion that I had lured men to murder Don Balthasar? Was it merely that I had infringed some law in carrying off Seraphina?
The old judge said, “How lucky, Don Patricio! We may now satisfy the English admiral. What good fortune!”
He suddenly sat straight in his chair; O'Brien behind him scrutinized my face-to see how I should bear what was coming.
“What is your name?” the judge asked peremptorily.
I said, “Juan-John Kemp. I am of noble English family; I am well enough known. Ask the Señor O'Brien."
On O'Brien's shaken face the smile hardened. “I heard that in Rio Medio the señor was called was called
.” He paused and appealed to the Lugareño.
“What was he called—the capataz, the man who led the picaroons?”
The Lugareño stammered, “Nikola
Nikola el Escoces, Señor Don Patricio."
“You hear?” O'Brien asked the judge. “This villager identifies the man.'
“Undoubtedly-undoubtedly,” the Juez said. “We need no more evidence.
You, Señor, have seen this villain in Rio Medio, this villager identifies him by name."
I said, “This is absurd. A hundred witnesses can say that I am John Kemp.
“That may be true,” the Juez said dryly, and then to his clerk:
“Write here, ‘John Kemp, of noble British family, called, on the scene of his crimes, Nikola el Escoces, otherwise El Demonio.
I shrugged my shoulders. I did not, at the moment, realize to what this all tended.
The judge said to the clerk, “Read the Act of Accusation. Read here.
He was pointing to a paragraph of the papers the clerk had brought in. They were the Act of Accusation, prepared long before, against the man Nichols.
This particular villainy suddenly became grotesquely and portentously plain. The clerk read an appalling catalogue of sordid crimes, working into each other like kneaded dough-the testimony of witnesses who had signed the record. Nikola had looted fourteen ships, and had apparently murdered twenty-two people with his own hand-two of them women and there was the affair of Rowley's boats. “The pinnace,” the clerk read, “of the British came within ten yards. The said Nikola then exclaimed, ‘Curse the bloodthirsty hounds,' and fired the grapeshot into the boat. Seven were killed by that discharge. This I saw with my own eyes.
Signed, Isidoro Alemanno.” And ar
other swore, “The said Nikola was below, but he came running up, and with one blow of his knife severed the throat of the man who was kneeling on the deck.
There was no doubt that Nikola had committed these crimes; that the witnesses had sworn to them and signed the deposition.
The old judge had evidently never seen him, and now O'Brien and the Lugareño had sworn that I was Nikola el Escoces, alias El Demonio.
My first impulse was to shout with rage; but I checked it because I knew I should be silenced. I said:
"I am not Nikola el Escoces. That I can easily
The Judge of the First Instance shrugged his shoulders and looked, with implicit trust, up into O'Brien's face.
“That man,” I pointed at the Lugareño, “is a pirate. And, what is more, he is in the pay of the Señor Juez O'Brien. He was the lieutenant of a man called Manuel-del-Popolo, who commanded the Lugareños after Nikola left Rio Medio."
“You know very much about the pirates," the Juez said, with the sardonic air of a very stupid man. “Without doubt you were intimate with them. I sign now your order for committal to the carcel of the Marine Court."
I said, “But I tell you I am not Nikola.
The Juez said impassively, “You pass out of my hands into those of the Marine Court. I am satisfied that you are a person deserving of a trial. That is the limit of my responsibility.”
I shouted then, “But I tell you this O'Brien is my personal enemy.”
The old man smiled acidly.
"The señor need fear nothing of our courts. He will be handed over to his own countrymen, Without
doubt of them he will obtain justice.” He signed to the Lugareño to go, and rose, gathering up his papers; he bowed to O'Brien. “I leave the criminal at the disposal of your worship,” he said, and went out with his clerk.
O'Brien sent out the two soldiers after him, and stood there alone. He had never been so near his death. But for sheer curiosity, for my sheer desire to know what he could say, I would have smashed in his brains with the clerk's stool. I was going to do it; I made one step towards the stool. Then I saw that he was crying.
"The curse—the curse of Cromwell on you," he sobbed suddenly. “You send me back to hell again.' He writhed his whole body. “Sorrow!” he said, “I know it. But what's this? What's this?”
The many reasons he had for sorrow flashed on me like a procession of sombre images.
“Dead and done with a man can bear,” he muttered. “But this—Not to know-perhaps alive perhaps hidden—She may be dead.
With a change like a flash he was commanding me.
“Tell me how you escaped.”
“You aren't fit for a decent man's speaking to,” I said.
“You let her drown.”
It gave me suddenly the measure of his ignorance; he did not know anything—nothing. His hell was uncertainty. Well, let him stay there.
“Where is she?” he said. “Where is she?”
He had a sudden convulsive gesture, as if searching for a weapon.
“If you'll tell me she's alive .” he began. “Oh, I'm not dead,” I answered.