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like that. I had my eyes fixed on the face of the young girl upon the bench. I remember it so well. Her eyes were fixed, fascinated, upon my hand. I tried to move it, and found that it was stuck upon the spike on which I had jammed it. I moved it carelessly away, and only felt a little pain, as if from a pin-prick; but the blood was dripping on to the floor, pat, pat. Later on, a man lit the candles on the judge's desk, and the court looked different. There were deep shadows everywhere; and the illuminated face of Lord Stowell looked grimmer, less kind, more ancient, more impossible to bring a ray of sympathy to. Down below, the barristers of the prosecution leaned back with their arms all folded, and the air of men resting in an interval of cutting down a large tree. The barristers who were merely listeners looked at me from time to time. I heard one say, “ That man ought to have his hand bound up." I was telling the story of my life, that was all I could do.
"As for Ramon, how could I know he was in the pay of the pirates, even if he were. I swear I did not know. Everyone on the island had dealings with him, the admiral himself. That is not calumny. On my honor, the admiral did have dealings. Some of you have had dealings with forgers, but that does not make you forgers."
I warmed to it; I found words. I was telling the story for that young girl. Suddenly I saw the white face of my father peep at me between the head of an old man with an enormous nose, and a stout lady in a brown cloak that had a number of little watchmen's capes. He smiled suddenly, and nodded again and again, opened his eyes, shut them; furtively waved a hand. It distracted me, threw me off my balance, my coolness was gone. It was as if something had snapped. After that I remember very little; I think I may have quoted the " Prisoner of Chillon," because he put it into my head.
I seemed to be back again in Cuba. Down below me the barristers were talking. The King's Advocate pulled out a pucecolored bandanna, and waved it abroad preparatorily to blowing his nose. A cloud of the perfume of a West Indian bean went up from it, sweet and warm. I had smelt it last at Rio, the sensation was so strong that I could not tell where I was. The candles made a yellow glow on the judge's desk; but it seemed to be the blaze of light in the cell where Nichols and the Cuban had fenced. I thought I was back in Cuba again. The people in the court disappeared in the deepening shadows. At times I could not speak. Then I would begin again.
If there were to be any possibility of saving my life, I had to tell what I had been through—and to tell it vividly—I had to narrate the story of my life; and my whole life came into my mind. It was Seraphina who was the essence of my life; who spoke with the voice of all Cuba, of all Spain, of all Romance. I began to talk about old Don Balthasar Riego. I began to talk about Manuel-del-Popolo, of his red shirt, his black eyes, his mandolin; I saw again the light of his fires ficker on the other side of the ravine in front of the cave.
And I rammed all that into my story, the story I was telling to that young girl. I knew very well that I was carrying my audience with me; I knew how to do it, I had it in the blood. The old pale, faded, narrow-lidded father who was blinking and nodding at me, had been one of the best raconteurs that ever was. I knew how. In the black shadows of the wall of the court I could feel the eyes upon me; I could see the parted lips of the young girl as she leaned further towards me. I knew it because, when one of the barristers below raised his voice, someone hissed "S—sh ” from the shadows. And suddenly it came into my head, that even if I did save my life by talking about these things, it would be absolutely useless. I could never go back again; never be the boy again; never hear the true voice of the Ever Faithful Island. What did it matter even if I escaped; even if I could go. back? The sea would be there, the sky, the silent dim hills, the listless surge; but I should never be there, I should be altered for good and all. I should never see the breathless dawn in the pondwater of Havana harbor, never be there with Seraphina close i 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 open-eyed 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 aint true, is it, it aint 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.
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 I 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 I, 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 halfpast 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 aint. ... Medmenham coach aint in yet . . . 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 subpæna 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.