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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. ..." Peter 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, and"
He 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 . . . 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 . . . um . . . um . . . um . . . 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."
There was a sort of buzz all round the court.
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 piracy in general; piracy in the times of the Greeks, piracy in the times of William the Conqueror . . . pirata neguissima Eustachio, and thanking God that a case of the sort had not been heard in that court for an immense lapse of years. Below me was an array of wigs, on each side a compressed mass of humanity, squeezed so tight that all the eyeballs seemed to be starting out of the heads towards me. From the wig below, a translation of the florid phrases of the Spanish papers was coming:
"His very Catholic Majesty, out of his great love for his ancient friend and ally, his Britannic Majesty, did surrender the body of the notorious El Demonio, called also . . ."
I began to wonder who had composed that precious document, whether it was the Juez de la Primeria Instancia, bending his yellow face and sloe-black eyes above the paper, over there in Havana—or whether it was O'Brien, who was dead since the writing.
All the while the barrister was droning on. I did not listen because I had heard all that before—in the room of the Judge of the First Instance at Havana. Suddenly appearing behind the backs of the row of gentlefolk on the bench was the pale, thin face of my father. I wondered which of his great friends had got him his seat. He was nodding to me and smiling faintly. I nodded, too, and smiled back. I was going to show them that I was not cowed. The voice of the barrister said:
"M'luds and gentlemen of the jury, that finishes the Spanish evidence, which was taken on commission on the island of Cuba. We shall produce the officer of H. M. S. Elephant, to whom he was surrendered by the Spanish authorities at Havana, thus proving the prisoner to be the pirate Nikola, and no other. We come, now, to the specific instance, m'luds and gentlemen, an instance as vile . . ."
It was some little time before I had grasped how absolutely the Spanish evidence damned me. It was as if, once I fell into the hands of the English officer on Havana quays, the identity of Nikola could by no manner of means be shaken from round my neck. The barrister came to the facts.
A Kingston ship had been boarded . . . and there was the old story over again. I seemed to see the Rio Medio schooner rushing towards where I and old Cowper and old Lumsden looked back from the poop to see her come alongside; the strings of brown pirates pour in empty-handed, and out laden. Only in the case of the Victoria there were added the ferocities of "the prisoner at the bar, m'luds and gentlemen of the jury, a fiend in human shape, as we shall prove with the aid of the most respectable witnesses. . . ."
The man in the wig sat down, and, before I understood what was happening, a fat, rosy man—the Attorney-General—whose cheerful gills gave him a grotesque resemblance to a sucking pig, was calling "Edward Sadler," and the name blared like sudden fire leaping up all over the court. The Attorney-General wagged his gown into a kind of bunch behind his hips, and a man, young, fair, with a reddish beard and a shiny suit of clothes, sprang into a little box facing the jury. He bowed nervously in several directions, and laughed gently; then he looked at me and scowled. The Attorney-General cleared his throat pleasantly . . .
"Mr. Edward Sadler, you were, on May 25th, chief mate of the good ship Victoria. . . ."
The fair man with the beard told his story, the old story of the ship with its cargo of coffee and dye-wood; its good passage past the Gran Caymanos; the becalming off the Cuban shore in latitude so and so, and the boarding of a black schooner, calling itself a Mexican privateer. I could see all that.
"The prisoner at the bar came alongside in a boat, with seventeen Spaniards," he said, in a clear, expressionless voice, looking me full in the face.
I called out to the old judge, " My Lord ... I protest. This is perjury. I was not the man. It was Nichols, a Nova Scotian."
Mr. Baron Garrow roared, "Silence," his face suffused with blood.
Old Lord Stowell quavered, "You must respect the procedure. . . ."
"Am I to hear my life sworn away without a word? " I asked.
He drew himself frostily into his robes. "God forbid," he said; " but at the proper time you can cross-examine, if you think fit,"