The jury re-entered the court after half an hour’s consultation.
It all comes back to me as vividly as though I stood in the dock at this very moment. The dense fog that hung over the well of the court; the barristers’ wigs that bobbed up through it, and were drowned again in that seething cauldron; the rays of the guttering candles (for the murder-trial had lasted far into the evening) that loomed through it and wore a sickly halo; the red robes and red face of my lord judge opposite that stared through it and outshone the candles; the black crowd around, seen mistily; the voice of the usher calling “Silence!”; the shuffling of the jurymen’s feet; the pallor on their faces as I leant forward and tried to read the verdict on them; the very smell of the place, compounded of fog, gaol-fever, the close air, and the dinners eaten earlier in the day by the crowd–all this strikes home upon me as sharply as it then did, after the numb apathy of waiting.
As the jury huddled into their places I stole a look at my counsel. He paused for a moment from his task of trimming a quill, shot a quick glance at the foreman’s face, and then went on cutting as coolly as ever.
“Gentlemen of the jury”–it was the judge’s voice–“are you agreed upon your verdict?”
“Do you find the prisoner guilty or not guilty?”
It must have been full a minute, as I leant back clutching the rail in front of me, before I saw anything but the bleared eyes of the candles, or heard anything but a hoarse murmur from the crowd. But as soon as the court ceased to heave, and I could stare about me, I looked towards my counsel again.
He was still shaping his pen. He made no motion to come forward and shake hands over my acquittal, for which he had worked untiringly all day. He did not even offer to speak. He just looked up, nodded carelessly, and turned to his junior beside him; but in that glance I had read something which turned my heart cold, then sick, within me, and from that moment my hatred of the man was as deep as hell.
In the fog outside I got clear of the gaping crowd, but the chill of the night after that heated court pierced my very bones. I had on the clothes I had been taken in. It was June then, and now it was late in October. I remember that on the day when they caught me I wore my coat open for coolness. Four months and a half had gone out of my life. Well, I had money enough in my pocket to get a greatcoat; but I must put something warm inside me first, to get out the chill that cursed lawyer had laid on my heart.
I had purposely chosen the by-lanes of the town, but I remembered a certain tavern–the “Lamb and Flag”–which lay down a side alley. Presently the light from its windows struck across the street, ahead. I pushed open the door and entered.
The small bar was full of people newly come from the court, and discussing the trial in all its bearings. In the babel I heard a dozen different opinions given in as many seconds, and learnt enough, too, to make me content with the jury I had had. But the warmth of the place was pleasant, and I elbowed my way forward to the counter.
There was a woman standing by the door as I entered, who looked curiously at me for a moment, then turned to nudge a man at her side, and whisper. The whisper grew as I pressed forward, and before I could reach the counter a hand was laid on my shoulder from behind. I turned.