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I did not wish to give even you the name of the one to whom it was written. Now I will say further, for your private information, that it was addressed to a lady, and that rather than drag her name into this miserable affair I will go without the help that that letter might give us. As to calling her over to testify in court, to become the butt of reporters and photographers, to connect her honourable name with a murder trial for my sake, why, no power on earth will win me over to any such cowardly act of inexcusable selfishness. I cannot share your opinion about my danger. You are pessimistic because of your long association with courts and criminals. I know my innocence, I believe my very bearing will proclaim it. I am sure of vindication, and I am optimistic enough to believe that at any hour something may turn up to help us.”
“Mr. Morris,” said his counsel, gravely, “I cannot endorse your attitude. It is, to my thinking, reckless and almost flippant. Your stubbornness on this point may cost you dear, and though we will put up as good a fight as we can, we go into it very poorly supplied with ammunition. However good and righteous a cause, we should be as well prepared and as carefully forearmed in proving an innocent man guiltless, as are those who strive to make a guilty man appear innocent."
A short talk followed on the minor details of the case, and then with a hand-shake in which the good lawyer expressed much of the warmth and sympathy that may have seemed lacking in his words, he stepped out again into the busy world, while Jack was escorted once more to the dismal confines of his cell.
GENTLEMEN, WHAT IS YOUR VERDICT?'
R. FOREMAN, has the jury agreed on a
verdict?” The momentous words rang out through the court-room with electrifying effect. The sultry, heavy air had made the crowd drowsy during those hours of waiting and suspense. Lawyers had retired for refreshment; the weary prisoner had for a time been absent. Those who remained to be sure of good seats at the finish, to be in at the death, as it were, had dozed and wilted under the oppressive stuffiness of the atmosphere. They had hardly been roused by the return of the prisoner or by the dropping in of lawyers. The solemn entrance of the jurors, who held the issue of life and death in their hands, had passed almost unnoticed, but those words, pronounced with all the ringing sonorousness of an official voice, caused a stir of awakened excitement and anticipation. All eyes turned to the clerk of the court; then, with one accord, to the prisoner, who was smiling as he gazed past the jurors to the roof of a building beyond the window, where some pigeons with iridescent plumage were preening themselves in the light of the setting sun. What a care-free, irresponsible creature that prisoner was! How could he watch with interest the billing and cooing of pigeons when his life was in the balance? Was it heartless carelessness or was it bravado? The crowd looked away from the dock again and every eye, every ear, was strained to watch the jurors and to catch the answer to that vital question. In the hush that followed, the foreman of the jury rose. He was a little man, with weak eyes and highly magnifying glasses. His manner was nervous in the extreme. He fingered a button on his coat, cleared his throat, looked at the prisoner, looked away hurriedly, put up his hand to steady his trembling lips, and answered in a voice hardly audible, "We have.
Turning to the prisoner at the bar, the clerk called to him to rise and face the jury. Then, turning to the jury, he bade them rise. “Prisoner at the Bar,” rang out the sonorous words, “look upon the jury. Gentlemen of the jury, look upon the prisoner at the bar."
Jack had risen mechanically, smiled amiably at the nervous little foreman, and then, with seeming relief at a formal duty performed, dismissed the twelve men from his vision, gazing over their heads at the pigeons which had risen and were wheeling gracefully around their former perching place.
Once more the clerk's voice rang clear and ominous. “Mr. Foreman, what is the verdict of the jury?” The jurors glanced at Jack, who had sunk back into his seat and who seemed to all appearance lost in dreams, while the foreman cleared his throat and, striving to throw all the solemnity of which he was capable into his quavering voice, gave forth the verdict: “The jury finds the prisoner guilty of murder in the first degree."
A sigh swept through the court-room like the first gust of wind that heralds the thunder-storm, then the babble of comment was so sudden and deafening that the judge rapped sharply for order, while the foreman of the jury mopped his brow and subsided into his seat. The prisoner was still gazing out of the window. How the sunshine gleamed and glittered on that burnished plumage, what a wondrous pink and orange tinted the snowy wings of the one white fan-tail that had just joined the cooing, preening group! There were pigeons like that at the Rectory, that dwelt