The next morning, at ten o’clock, the court was again crowded. The judge was again on his bench, prepared for patient endurance; and Lord Killtime and Sir Gregory Hardlines were alongside of him. The jury were again in their box, ready with pen and paper to give their brightest attention — a brightness which will be dim enough before the long day be over; the counsel for the prosecution were rummaging among their papers; the witnesses for the defence were sitting there among the attorneys, with the exception of the Honourable Undecimus Scott, who was accommodated with a seat near the sheriff, and whose heart, to tell the truth, was sinking somewhat low within his breast, in spite of the glass of brandy with which he had fortified himself. Alaric was again present under the wings of Mr. Gitemthruet; and the great Mr. Chaffanbrass was in his place. He was leaning over a slip of paper which he held in his hand, and with compressed lips was meditating his attack upon his enemies; on this occasion his wig was well over his eyes, and as he peered up from under it to the judge’s face, he cocked his nose with an air of supercilious contempt for all those who were immediately around him.
It was for him to begin the day’s sport by making a speech, not so much in defence of his client as in accusation of the prosecutors. ‘It had never,’ he said, ‘been his fate, he might say his misfortune, to hear a case against a man in a respectable position, opened by the Crown with such an amount of envenomed virulence.’ He was then reminded that the prosecution was not carried on by the Crown. ‘Then,’ said he, ‘we may attribute this virulence to private malice; that it is not to be attributed to any fear that this English bride should lose her fortune, or that her French husband should be deprived of any portion of his spoil, I shall be able to prove to a certainty. Did I allow myself that audacity of denunciation which my learned friend has not considered incompatible with the dignity of his new silk gown? Could I permit myself such latitude of invective as he has adopted?’— a slight laugh was here heard in the court, and an involuntary smile played across the judge’s face —‘yes,’ continued Mr. Chaffanbrass, ‘I boldly aver that I have never forgotten myself, and what is due to humanity, as my learned friend did in his address to the jury. Gentlemen of the jury, you will not confound the natural indignation which counsel must feel when defending innocence from the false attacks, with the uncalled-for, the unprofessional acerbity which has now been used in promoting such an accusation as this. I may at times be angry, when I see mean falsehood before me in vain assuming the garb of truth — for with such juries as I meet here it generally is in vain — I may at times forget myself in anger; but, if we talk of venom, virulence, and eager hostility, I yield the palm, without a contest, to my learned friend in the new silk gown.’
He then went on to dispose of the witnesses whom they had heard on the previous day, and expressed a regret that an exposé should have been made so disgraceful to the commercial establishments of this great commercial city. It only showed what was the effect on such establishments of that undue parsimony which was now one of the crying evils of the times. Having thus shortly disposed of them, he came to what all men knew was the real interest of the day’s doings. ‘But,’ said he, ‘the evidence in this case, to which your attention will be chiefly directed, will be, not that for the accusation, but that for the defence. It will be my business to show to you, not only that my client is guiltless, but to what temptations to be guilty he has been purposely and wickedly subjected. I shall put into that bar an honourable member of the House of Commons, who will make some revelations as to his own life, who will give us an insight into the ways and means of a legislator, which will probably surprise us all, not excluding his lordship on the bench. He will be able to explain to us — and I trust I may be able to induce him to do so, for it is possible that he may be a little coy — he will be able to explain to us why my client, who is in no way connected either with the Scotts, or the Golightlys, or the Figgs, or the Jaquêtanàpes, why he was made the lady’s trustee; and he will also, perhaps, tell us, after some slight, gentle persuasion, whether he has himself handled, or attempted to handle, any of this lady’s money.’
Mr. Chaffanbrass then went on to state that, as the forms of the court would not give him the power of addressing the jury again, he must now explain to them what he conceived to be the facts of the case. He then admitted that his client, in his anxiety to do the best he could with the fortune entrusted to him, had invested it badly. The present fate of these unfortunate bridge shares, as to which the commercial world had lately held so many different opinions, proved that: but it had nevertheless been a bona fide investment, made in conjunction with, and by the advice of, Mr. Scott, the lady’s uncle, who thus, for his own purposes, got possession of money which was in truth confided to him for other purposes. His client, Mr. Chaffanbrass acknowledged, had behaved with great indiscretion; but the moment he found that the investment would be an injurious one to the lady whose welfare was in his hands, he at once resolved to make good the whole amount from his own pocket. That he had done so, or, at any rate, would have done so, but for this trial, would be proved to them. Nobler conduct than this it was impossible to imagine. Whereas, the lady’s uncle, the honourable member of Parliament, the gentleman who had made a stalking-horse of his, Mr. Chaffanbrass’s, client, refused to refund a penny of the spoil, and was now the instigator of this most unjust proceeding.
As Mr. Chaffanbrass thus finished his oration, Undy Scott tried to smile complacently on those around him. But why did the big drops of sweat stand on his brow as his eye involuntarily caught those of Mr. Chaffanbrass? Why did he shuffle his feet, and uneasily move his hands and feet hither and thither, as a man does when he tries in vain to be unconcerned? Why did he pull his gloves on and off, and throw himself back with that affected air which is so unusual to him? All the court was looking at him, and every one knew that he was wretched. Wretched! aye, indeed he was; for the assurance even of an Undy Scott, the hardened man of the clubs, the thrice elected and twice rejected of Tillietudlem, fell prostrate before the well-known hot pincers of Chaffanbrass, the torturer!
The first witness called was Henry Norman. Alaric looked up for a moment with surprise, and then averted his eyes. Mr. Gitemthruet had concealed from him the fact that Norman was to be called. He merely proved this, that having heard from Mrs. Woodward, who was the prisoner’s mother-inlaw, and would soon be his own mother-inlaw, that a deficiency had been alleged to exist in the fortune of Madame Jaquêtanàpe, he had, on the part of Mrs. Woodward, produced what he believed would cover this deficiency, and that when he had been informed that more money was wanting, he had offered to give security that the whole should be paid in six months. Of course, on him Mr. Chaffanbrass exercised none of his terrible skill, and as the lawyers on the other side declined to cross-examine him, he was soon able to leave the court. This he did speedily, for he had no desire to witness Alaric’s misery.
And then the Honourable Undecimus Scott was put into the witness-box. It was suggested, on his behalf, that he might give his evidence from the seat which he then occupied, but this Mr. Chaffanbrass would by no means allow. His intercourse with Mr. Scott, he said, must be of a nearer, closer, and more confidential nature than such an arrangement as that would admit. A witness, to his way of thinking, was never an efficient witness till he had his arm on the rail of a witness-box. He must trouble Mr. Scott to descend from the grandeur of his present position; he might return to his seat after he had been examined — if he then should have a mind to do so. Our friend Undy found that he had to obey, and he was soon confronted with Mr. Chaffanbrass in the humbler manner which that gentleman thought so desirable.
‘You are a member of the House of Commons, I believe, Mr. Scott?’ began Mr. Chaffanbrass.
Undy acknowledged that he was so.
‘And you are the son of a peer, I believe?’
‘A Scotch peer,’ said Undy.
‘Oh, a Scotch peer,’ said Mr. Chaffanbrass, bringing his wig forward over his left eye in a manner that was almost irresistible —‘a Scotch peer — a member of Parliament, and son of a Scotch peer; and you have been a member of the Government, I believe, Mr. Scott?’
Undy confessed that he had been in office for a short time.
‘A member of Parliament, a son of a peer, and one of the Government of this great and free country. You ought to be a proud and a happy man. You are a man of fortune, too, I believe, Mr. Scott?’
‘That is a matter of opinion,’ said Undy; ‘different people have different ideas. I don’t know what you call fortune.’
‘Why I call £20,000 a fortune — this sum that the lady had who married the Frenchman. Have you £20,000?’
‘I shall not answer that question.’
‘Have you £10,000? You surely must have as much as that, as I know you married a fortune yourself — unless, indeed, a false-hearted trustee has got hold of your money also. Come, have you got £10,000?’
‘I shall not answer you.’
‘Have you got any income at all? Now, I demand an answer to that on your oath, sir.’
‘My lord, must I answer such questions?’ said Undy.
‘Yes, sir; you must answer them, and many more like them,’ said Mr. Chaffanbrass. ‘My lord, it is essential to my client that I should prove to the jury whether this witness is or is not a penniless adventurer; if he be a respectable member of society, he can have no objection to let me know whether he has the means of living.’
‘Perhaps, Mr. Scott,’ said the judge, ‘you will not object to state whether or no you possess any fixed income.’
‘Have you, or have you not, got an income on which you live?’ demanded Mr. Chaffanbrass.
‘I have an income,’ said Undy, not, however, in a voice that betokened much self-confidence in the strength of his own answer.
‘You have an income, have you? And now, Mr. Scott, will you tell us what profession you follow at this moment with the object of increasing your income? I think we may surmise, by the tone of your voice, that your income is not very abundant.’
‘I have no profession,’ said Undy.
‘On your oath, you are in no profession?’
‘Not at present.’
‘On your oath, you are not a stock-jobber?’
Undy hesitated for a moment.
‘By the virtue of your oath, sir, are you a stock-jobber, or are you not?’
‘No, I am not. At least, I believe not.’
‘You believe not!’ said Mr. Chaffanbrass — and it would be necessary to hear the tone in which this was said to understand the derision which was implied. ‘You believe you are not a stock-jobber! Are you, or are you not, constantly buying shares and selling shares — railway shares — bridge shares — mining shares — and such-like?’
‘I sometimes buy shares.’
‘And sometimes sell them?’
‘Yes — and sometimes sell them.’
Where Mr. Chaffanbrass had got his exact information, we cannot say; but very exact information he had acquired respecting Undy’s little transactions. He questioned him about the Mary Janes and Old Friendships, about the West Corks and the Ballydehob Branch, about sundry other railways and canals, and finally about the Limehouse bridge; and then again he asked his former question. ‘And now,’ said he, ‘will you tell the jury whether you are a stock-jobber or no?’
‘It is all a matter of opinion,’ said Undy. ‘Perhaps I may be, in your sense of the word.’
‘My sense of the word!’ said Mr. Chaffanbrass. ‘You are as much a stock-jobber, sir, as that man is a policeman, or his lordship is a judge. And now, Mr. Scott, I am sorry that I must go back to your private affairs, respecting which you are so unwilling to speak. I fear I must trouble you to tell me this — How did you raise the money with which you bought that latter batch — the large lump of the bridge shares — of which we were speaking?’
‘I borrowed it from Mr. Tudor,’ said Undy, who had prepared himself to answer this question glibly.
‘You borrowed it from Mr. Alaric Tudor — that is, from the gentleman now upon his trial. You borrowed it, I believe, just at the time that he became the lady’s trustee?’
‘Yes,’ said Undy; ‘I did so.’
‘You have not repaid him as yet?’
‘No — not yet,’ said Undy.
‘I thought not. Can you at all say when Mr. Tudor may probably get his money?’
‘I am not at present prepared to name a day. When the money was lent it was not intended that it should be repaid at an early day.’
‘Oh! Mr. Tudor did not want his money at an early day — didn’t he? But, nevertheless, he has, I believe, asked for it since, and that very pressingly?’
‘He has never asked for it,’ said Undy.
‘Allow me to remind you, Mr. Scott, that I have the power of putting my client into that witness-box, although he is on his trial; and, having so reminded you, let me again beg you to say whether he has not asked you for repayment of this large sum of money very pressingly.’
‘No; he has never done so.’
‘By the value of your oath, sir — if it has any value — did not my client beseech you to allow these shares to be sold while they were yet saleable, in order that your niece’s trust money might be replaced in the English funds?’
‘He said something as to the expediency of selling them, and I differed from him.’
‘You thought it would be better for the lady’s interest that they should remain unsold?’
‘I made no question of the lady’s interest. I was not her trustee.’
‘But the shares were bought with the lady’s money.’
‘What shares?’ asked Undy.
‘What shares, sir? Those shares which you had professed to hold on the lady’s behalf, and which afterwards you did not scruple to call your own. Those shares of yours — since you have the deliberate dishonesty so to call them — those shares of yours, were they not bought with the lady’s money?’
‘They were bought with the money which I borrowed from Mr. Tudor.’
‘And where did Mr. Tudor get that money?’
‘That is a question you must ask himself,’ said Undy.
‘It is a question, sir, that just at present I prefer to ask you. Now, sir, be good enough to tell the jury, whence Mr. Tudor got that money; or tell them, if you dare do so, that you do not know.’
Undy for a minute remained silent, and Mr. Chaffanbrass remained silent also. But if the fury of his tongue for a moment was at rest, that of his eyes was as active as ever. He kept his gaze steadily fixed upon the witness, and stood there with compressed lips, still resting on his two hands, as though he were quite satisfied thus to watch the prey that was in his power. For an instant he glanced up to the jury, and then allowed his eyes to resettle on the face of the witness, as though he might have said, ‘There, gentlemen, there he is — the son of a peer, a member of Parliament; what do you think of him?’
The silence of that minute was horrible to Undy, and yet he could hardly bring himself to break it. The judge looked at him with eyes which seemed to read his inmost soul; the jury looked at him, condemning him one and all; Alaric looked at him with fierce, glaring eyes of hatred, the same eyes that had glared at him that night when he had been collared in the street; the whole crowd looked at him derisively; but the eyes of them all were as nothing to the eyes of Mr. Chaffanbrass.
‘I never saw him so great; I never did,’ said Mr. Gitemthruet, whispering to his client; and Alaric, even he, felt some consolation in the terrible discomfiture of his enemy.
‘I don’t know where he got it,’ said Undy, at last breaking the terrible silence, and wiping the perspiration from his brow.
‘Oh, you don’t!’ said Mr. Chaffanbrass, knocking his wig back, and coming well out of his kennel. ‘After waiting for a quarter of an hour or so, you are able to tell the jury at last that you don’t know anything about it. He took the small trifle of change out of his pocket, I suppose?’
‘I don’t know where he took it from.’
‘And you didn’t ask?’
‘You got the money; that was all you know. But this was just at the time that Mr. Tudor became the lady’s trustee; I think you have admitted that.’
‘It may have been about the time.’
‘Yes; it may have been about the time, as you justly observe, Mr. Scott. Luckily, you know, we have the dates of the two transactions. But it never occurred to your innocent mind that the money which you got into your hands was a part of the lady’s fortune; that never occurred to your innocent mind — eh, Mr. Scott?’
‘I don’t know that my mind is a more innocent mind than your own,’ said Undy.
‘I dare say not. Well, did the idea ever occur to your guilty mind?’
‘Perhaps my mind is not more guilty than your own, either.’
‘Then may God help me,’ said Mr. Chaffanbrass, ‘for I must be at a bad pass. You told us just now, Mr. Scott, that some time since Mr. Tudor advised you to sell these shares — what made him give you this advice?’
‘He meant, he said, to sell his own.’
‘And he pressed you to sell yours?’
‘He urged you to do so more than once?’
‘Yes; I believe he did.’
‘And now, Mr. Scott, can you explain to the jury why he was so solicitous that you should dispose of your property?’
‘I do not know why he should have done so, unless he wanted back his money.’
‘Then he did ask for his own money?’
‘No; he never asked for it. But if I had sold the shares perhaps he might have asked for it.’
‘Oh!’ said Mr. Chaffanbrass; and as he uttered the monosyllable he looked up at the jury, and gently shook his head, and gently shook his hands. Mr. Chaffanbrass was famous for these little silent addresses to the jury-box.
But not even yet had he done with this suspicious loan. We cannot follow him through the whole of his examination; for he kept our old friend under the harrow for no less than seven hours. Though he himself made no further statement to the jury, he made it perfectly plain, by Undy’s own extracted admissions, or by the hesitation of his denials, that he had knowingly received this money out of his niece’s fortune, and that he had refused to sell the shares bought with this money, when pressed to do so by Tudor, in order that the trust-money might be again made up.
There were those who blamed Mr. Chaffanbrass for thus admitting that his client had made away with his ward’s money by lending it to Undy; but that acute gentleman saw clearly that he could not contend against the fact of the property having been fraudulently used; but he saw that he might induce the jury to attach so much guilt to Undy, that Tudor would, as it were, be whitened by the blackness of the other’s villany. The judge, he well knew, would blow aside all this froth; but then the judge could not find the verdict.
Towards the end of the day, when Undy was thoroughly worn out — at which time, however, Mr. Chaffanbrass was as brisk as ever, for nothing ever wore him out when he was pursuing his game — when the interest of those who had been sweltering in the hot court all the day was observed to flag, Mr. Chaffanbrass began twisting round his finger a bit of paper, of which those who were best acquainted with his manner knew that he would soon make use.
‘Mr. Scott,’ said he, suddenly dropping the derisive sarcasm of his former tone, and addressing him with all imaginable courtesy, ‘could you oblige me by telling me whose handwriting that is?’ and he handed to him the scrap of paper. Undy took it, and saw that the writing was his own; his eyes were somewhat dim, and he can hardly be said to have read it. It was a very short memorandum, and it ran as follows: ‘All will yet be well, if those shares be ready tomorrow morning.’
‘Well, Mr. Scott,’ said the lawyer, ‘do you recognize the handwriting?’
Undy looked at it, and endeavoured to examine it closely, but he could not; his eyes swam, and his head was giddy, and he felt sick. Could he have satisfied himself that the writing was not clearly and manifestly his own, he would have denied the document altogether; but he feared to do this; the handwriting might be proved to be his own.
‘It is something like my own,’ said he.
‘Something like your own, is it?’ said Mr. Chaffanbrass, as though he were much surprised. ‘Like your own! Well, will you have the goodness to read it?’
Undy turned it in his hand as though the proposed task were singularly disagreeable to him. Why, thought he to himself, should he be thus browbeaten by a dirty old Newgate lawyer? Why not pluck up his courage, and, at any rate, show that he was a man? ‘No,’ said he, ‘I will not read it.’
‘Then I will. Gentlemen of the jury, have the goodness to listen to me.’ Of course there was a contest then between him and the lawyers on the other side whether the document might or might not be read; but equally of course the contest ended in the judge’s decision that it should be read. And Mr. Chaffanbrass did read it in a voice audible to all men. ‘All will yet be well, if those shares be ready tomorrow morning.’ We may take it as admitted, I suppose, that this is in your handwriting, Mr. Scott?’
‘It probably may be, though I will not say that it is.’
‘Do you not know, sir, with positive certainty that it is your writing?’
To this Undy made no direct answer. ‘What is your opinion, Mr. Scott?’ said the judge; ‘you can probably give an opinion by which the jury would be much guided.’
‘I think it is, my lord,’ said Undy.
‘He thinks it is, said Mr. Chaffanbrass, addressing the jury. ‘Well, for once I agree with you. I think it is also — and how will you have the goodness to explain it. To whom was it addressed?’
‘I cannot say.’
‘When was it written?’
‘I do not know.’
‘What does it mean?’
‘I cannot remember.’
‘Was it addressed to Mr. Tudor?’
‘I should think not.’
‘Now, Mr. Scott, have the goodness to look at the jury, and to speak a little louder. You are in the habit of addressing a larger audience than this, and cannot, therefore, be shamefaced. You mean to tell the jury that you think that that note was not intended by you for Mr. Tudor?’
‘I think not,’ said Undy.
‘But you can’t say who it was intended for?’
‘And by the virtue of your oath, you have told us all that you know about it?’ Undy remained silent, but Mr. Chaffanbrass did not press him for an answer. ‘You have a brother, named Valentine, I think.’ Now Captain Val had been summoned also, and was at this moment in court. Mr. Chaffanbrass requested that he might be desired to leave it, and, consequently, he was ordered out in charge of a policeman.
‘And now, Mr. Scott — was that note written by you to Mr. Tudor, with reference to certain shares, which you proposed that Mr. Tudor should place in your brother’s hands? Now, sir, I ask you, as a member of Parliament, as a member of the Government, as the son of a peer, to give a true answer to that question.’ And then again Undy was silent; and again Mr. Chaffanbrass leant on the desk and glared at him. ‘And remember, sir, member of Parliament and nobleman as you are, you shall be indicted for perjury, if you are guilty of perjury.’
‘My lord,’ said Undy, writhing in torment, ‘am I to submit to this?’
‘Mr. Chaffanbrass,’ said the judge, ‘you should not threaten your witness. Mr. Scott — surely you can answer the question.’
Mr. Chaffanbrass seemed not to have even heard what the judge said, so intently were his eyes fixed on poor Undy. ‘Well, Mr. Scott,’ he said at last, very softly, ‘is it convenient for you to answer me? Did that note refer to a certain number of bridge shares, which you required Mr. Tudor to hand over to the stepfather of this lady?’
Undy had no trust in his brother. He felt all but sure that, under the fire of Mr. Chaffanbrass, he would confess everything. It would be terrible to own the truth, but it would be more terrible to be indicted for perjury. So he sat silent.
‘My lord, perhaps you will ask him,’ said Mr. Chaffanbrass.
‘Mr. Scott, you understand the question — why do you not answer it?’ asked the judge. But Undy still remained silent.
‘You may go now,’ said Mr. Chaffanbrass. ‘Your eloquence is of the silent sort; but, nevertheless, it is very impressive. You may go now, and sit on that bench again, if, after what has passed, the sheriff thinks proper to permit it.’
Undy, however, did not try that officer’s complaisance. He retired from the witness-box, and was not again seen during the trial in any conspicuous place in the court.
It was then past seven o’clock; but Mr. Chaffanbrass insisted on going on with the examination of Captain Val. It did not last long. Captain Val, also, was in that disagreeable position, that he did not know what Undy had confessed, and what denied. So he, also, refused to answer the questions of Mr. Chaffanbrass, saying that he might possibly damage himself should he do so. This was enough for Mr. Chaffanbrass, and then his work was done.
At eight o’clock the court again adjourned; again Charley posted off — for the third time that day — to let Gertrude know that, even as yet, all was not over; and again he and Alaric spent a melancholy evening at the neighbouring tavern; and then, again, on the third morning, all were re-assembled at the Old Bailey.
Or rather they were not all re-assembled. But few came now, and they were those who were obliged to come. The crack piece of the trial, that portion to which, among the connoisseurs, the interest was attached, that was all over. Mr. Chaffanbrass had done his work. Undy Scott, the member of Parliament, had been gibbeted, and the rest was, in comparison, stale, flat, and unprofitable. The judge and jury, however, were there, so were the prosecuting counsel, so were Mr. Chaffanbrass and Mr. Younglad, and so was poor Alaric. The work of the day was commenced by the judge’s charge, and then Alaric, to his infinite dismay, found how all the sophistry and laboured arguments of his very talented advocate were blown to the winds, and shown to be worthless. ‘Gentlemen,’ said the judge to the jurors, after he had gone through all the evidence, and told them what was admissible, and what was not —‘gentlemen, I must especially remind you, that in coming to a verdict in the matter, no amount of guilt on the part of any other person can render guiltless him whom you are now trying, or palliate his guilt if he be guilty. An endeavour has been made to affix a deep stigma on one of the witnesses who has been examined before you; and to induce you to feel, rather than to think, that Mr. Tudor is, at any rate, comparatively innocent — innocent as compared with that gentleman. That is not the issue which you are called on to decide; not whether Mr. Scott, for purposes of his own, led Mr. Tudor on to guilt, and then turned against him; but whether Mr. Tudor himself has, or has not, been guilty under this Act of Parliament that has been explained to you.
‘As regards the evidence of Mr. Scott, I am justified in telling you, that if the prisoner’s guilt depended in any way on that evidence, it would be your duty to receive it with the most extreme caution, and to reject it altogether if not corroborated. That evidence was not trustworthy, and in a great measure justified the treatment which the witness encountered from the learned barrister who examined him. But Mr. Scott was a witness for the defence, not for the prosecution. The case for the prosecution in no way hangs on his evidence.
‘If it be your opinion that Mr. Tudor is guilty, and that he was unwarily enticed into guilt by Mr. Scott; that the whole arrangement of this trust was brought about by Mr. Scott or others, to enable him or them to make a cat’s-paw of this new trustee, and thus use the lady’s money for their own purposes, such an opinion on your part may justify you in recommending the prisoner to the merciful consideration of the bench; but it cannot justify you in finding a verdict of not guilty.’
As Alaric heard this, and much more to the same effect, his hopes, which certainly had been high during the examination of Undy Scott, again sank to zero, and left him in despair. He had almost begun to doubt the fact of his own guilt, so wondrously had his conduct been glossed over by Mr. Chaffanbrass, so strikingly had any good attempt on his part been brought to the light, so black had Scott been made to appear. Ideas floated across his brain that he might go forth, not only free of the law, but whitewashed also in men’s opinions, that he might again sit on his throne at the Civil Service Board, again cry to himself ‘Excelsior,’ and indulge the old dreams of his ambition.
But, alas! the deliberate and well-poised wisdom of the judge seemed to shower down cold truth upon the jury from his very eyes. His words were low in their tone, though very clear, impassive, delivered without gesticulation or artifice, such as that so powerfully used by Mr. Chaffanbrass; but Alaric himself felt that it was impossible to doubt the truth of such a man; impossible to suppose that any juryman should do so. Ah me! why had he brought himself thus to quail beneath the gaze of an old man seated on a bench? with what object had he forced himself to bend his once proud neck? He had been before in courts such as this, and had mocked within his own spirit the paraphernalia of the horsehair wigs, the judges’ faded finery, and the red cloth; he had laughed at the musty, stale solemnity by which miscreants were awed, and policemen enchanted; now, these things told on himself heavily enough; he felt now their weight and import.
And then the jury retired from the court to consider their verdict, and Mr. Gitemthruet predicted that they would be hungry enough before they sat down to their next meal. ‘His lordship was dead against us,’ said Mr. Gitemthruet; ‘but that was a matter of course; we must look to the jury, and the city juries are very fond of Mr. Chaffanbrass; I am not quite sure, however, that Mr. Chaffanbrass was right: I would not have admitted so much myself; but then no one knows a city jury so well as Mr. Chaffanbrass.’
Other causes came on, and still the jury did not return to court. Mr. Chaffanbrass seemed to have forgotten the very existence of Alaric Tudor, and was deeply engaged in vindicating a city butcher from an imputation of having vended a dead ass by way of veal. All his indignation was now forgotten, and he was full of boisterous fun, filling the court with peals of laughter. One o’clock came, two, three, four, five, six, seven, and still no verdict. At the latter hour, when the court was about to be adjourned, the foreman came in, and assured the judge that there was no probability that they could agree; eleven of them thought one way, while the twelfth was opposed to them. ‘You must reason with the gentleman,’ said the judge. ‘I have, my lord,’ said the foreman, ‘but it’s all thrown away upon him.’ ‘Reason with him again,’ said the judge, rising from his bench and preparing to go to his dinner.
And then one of the great fundamental supports of the British constitution was brought into play. Reason was thrown away upon this tough juryman, and, therefore, it was necessary to ascertain what effect starvation might have upon him. A verdict, that is, a unanimous decision from these twelve men as to Alaric’s guilt, was necessary; it might be that three would think him innocent, and nine guilty, or that any other division of opinion might take place; but such divisions among a jury are opposed to the spirit of the British constitution. Twelve men must think alike; or, if they will not, they must be made to do so. ‘Reason with him again,’ said the judge, as he went to his own dinner. Had the judge bade them remind him how hungry he would soon be if he remained obstinate, his lordship would probably have expressed the thought which was passing through his mind. ‘There is one of us, my lord,’ said the foreman, ‘who will I know be very ill before long; he is already so bad that he can’t sit upright.’
There are many ludicrous points in our blessed constitution, but perhaps nothing so ludicrous as a juryman praying to a judge for mercy. He has been caught, shut up in a box, perhaps, for five or six days together, badgered with half a dozen lawyers till he is nearly deaf with their continual talking, and then he is locked up until he shall die or find a verdict. Such at least is the intention of the constitution. The death, however, of three or four jurymen from starvation would not suit the humanity of the present age, and therefore, when extremities are nigh at hand, the dying jurymen, with medical certificates, are allowed to be carried off. It is devoutly to be wished that one juryman might be starved to death while thus serving the constitution; the absurdity then would cure itself, and a verdict of a majority would be taken.
But in Alaric’s case, reason or hunger did prevail at the last moment, and as the judge was leaving the court, he was called back to receive the verdict. Alaric, also, was brought back, still under Mr. Gitemthruet’s wing, and with him came Charley. A few officers of the court were there, a jailer and a policeman or two, those whose attendance was absolutely necessary, but with these exceptions the place was empty. Not long since men were crowding for seats, and the policemen were hardly able to restrain the pressure of those who pushed forward; but now there was no pushing; the dingy, dirty benches, a few inches of which had lately been so desirable, were not at all in request, and were anything but inviting in appearance; Alaric sat himself down on the very spot which had lately been sacred to Mr. Chaffanbrass, and Mr. Gitemthruet, seated above him, might also fancy himself a barrister. There they sat for five minutes in perfect silence; the suspense of the moment cowed even the attorney, and Charley, who sat on the other side of Alaric, was so affected that he could hardly have spoken had he wished to do so.
And then the judge, who had been obliged to re-array himself before he returned to the bench, again took his seat, and an officer of the court inquired of the foreman of the jury, in his usual official language, what their finding was.
‘Guilty on the third count,’ said the foreman. ‘Not guilty on the four others. We beg, however, most strongly to recommend the prisoner to your lordship’s merciful consideration, believing that he has been led into this crime by one who has been much more guilty than himself.’
‘I knew Mr. Chaffanbrass was wrong,’ said Mr. Gitemthruet. ‘I knew he was wrong when he acknowledged so much. God bless my soul! in a court of law one should never acknowledge anything! what’s the use?’
And then came the sentence. He was to be confined at the Penitentiary at Millbank for six months. ‘The offence,’ said the judge, ‘of which you have been found guilty, and of which you most certainly have been guilty, is one most prejudicial to the interests of the community. That trust which the weaker of mankind should place in the stronger, that reliance which widows and orphans should feel in their nearest and dearest friends, would be destroyed, if such crimes as these were allowed to pass unpunished. But in your case there are circumstances which do doubtless palliate the crime of which you have been guilty; the money which you took will, I believe, be restored; the trust which you were courted to undertake should not have been imposed on you; and in the tale of villany which has been laid before us, you have by no means been the worst offender. I have, therefore, inflicted on you the slightest penalty which the law allows me. Mr. Tudor, I know what has been your career, how great your services to your country, how unexceptionable your conduct as a public servant; I trust, I do trust, I most earnestly, most hopefully trust, that your career of utility is not over. Your abilities are great, and you are blessed with the power of thinking; I do beseech you to consider, while you undergo that confinement which you needs must suffer, how little any wealth is worth an uneasy conscience.’
And so the trial was over. Alaric was taken off in custody; the policeman in mufti was released from his attendance; and Charley, with a heavy heart, carried the news to Gertrude and Mrs. Woodward.
‘And as for me,’ said Gertrude, when she had so far recovered from the first shock as to be able to talk to her mother —‘as for me, I will have lodgings at Millbank.’
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01