The Man Within, страница 13
‘You have been in command of the revenue post at Shoreham for over four years?’
‘Have you or have you not received complaints from headquarters that you are not properly fulfilling your duties with regard to the prevention of smuggling?’
‘Mr Braddock,’ the judge again interrupted, his eyes on the young women in the gallery, ‘that is not a relevant question.’
‘My lord,’ Mr Braddock fired up, ‘I am very well aware of what is relevant and what is not relevant. If the defence is to be hampered…’
‘That is not the way to address the Bench. You must learn to keep your temper, Mr Braddock. I am anxious to give the defence every latitude. Well, Mr Hilliard?’
‘I have received complaints, my lord.’
‘He has received complaints, Mr Braddock. There you have your answer. Will you proceed?’
‘Did you receive a complaint within the last month?’
‘Did you say in the hearing of a number of your men that unless something was done quickly you and they would be dismissed the service?’
‘Now, Mr Hilliard, think carefully upon that point and remember that you are upon your oath.’
‘I cannot remember saying so.’
‘Yes or no, Mr Hilliard.’
Sir Edward Parkin fluttered a white hand impatiently. Attention in the public gallery was becoming too centred on counsel. ‘The witness has already answered you, Mr Braddock. He cannot remember.’
Mr Braddock snorted and shrugged his shoulders with an eye on the jury.
‘Now, Mr Hilliard, listen carefully. I suggest to you that there was urgent need, if you were not to be dismissed from the service, for – shall we say a grand coup?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘I suggest, Mr Hilliard, that your whole story, and the story your men will tell, is a complete fabrication?’
‘That’s a lie.’
‘These men are known to be smugglers. I suggest that you arrested them not on the shore but in their homes?’
‘Don’t laugh at me, Mr Hilliard. This is a serious matter for you. The jury have only your word and the word of your men against the word of these prisoners in the dock.’
‘Counsel for the defence,’ Sir Edward Parkin interrupted, ‘cannot address the jury. Confine yourself to cross-examining the witness, Mr Braddock.’
‘Can I say something, my lord?’ Mr Hilliard asked. ‘It’s not only our word. There’s the body.’
‘I shall come to the body in good time,’ Mr Braddock said. ‘In the last three years, Mr Hilliard, are these the first successful arrests you have made?’
‘I suggest to you that it is curious that after three years of apathy you are able suddenly to hit on the exact portion of shore where these men landed?’
‘I acted on information.’
‘Information is a vague word. Do you mean your imagination?’ Mr Braddock grinned fiercely at the jury and they tittered nervously back.
‘No, I received an anonymous letter.’
‘Have you made any attempt to trace the writer?’
‘Is that letter going to be produced in Court?’
‘Are you asking for it to be read, Mr Braddock?’ the Judge asked.
‘No, my lord.’
‘Well, then, you know as well as I do that it cannot be produced. It’s not evidence.’
‘Your source of information then was an anonymous letter?’
Mr Braddock laughed. The sound was like the clang of iron gates. ‘An anonymous letter!’ With a rough sweep of his hand he seemed to brush away incredulously the whole story. ‘I have no more to ask this witness, my lord,’ he said, and sat down.
‘Do you wish to re-examine, Sir Henry?’
Sir Henry Merriman with a faint smile shook his head. Mr Braddock was behaving exactly as he had foreseen.
The next witness was the elderly gauger with whom Andrews had had his encounter. He repeated the same story as his chief. Mr Braddock rose to cross-examine. He adopted a friendly, insinuating manner which sat on him less naturally than his previous bullying ways.
‘Have you been at all afraid of dismissal during the last year?’
‘We were all afraid of that.’
‘Thank you. Did you know the dead man, Rexall, well?’
‘Are you aware of any quarrel he has had during the last year?’
Laughter broke out in the gallery and the usher had to call for silence several times. Mr Farne spoke rapidly in Sir Henry Merriman’s ear.
‘He was of a quarrelsome disposition?’
‘Did you know personally any of the men in the dock?’
‘All of ’em.’
‘Thank you. That is all.’
Sir Henry gave a nod to Mr Farne and Mr Farne rose.
‘Are you aware of any quarrel which Rexall may have had with any of the prisoners in the dock?’
‘No. We got on middlin’ well wi’ ’em all.’
Mr Farne sat down.
One after the other the gaugers were called to testify to the truth of Mr Hilliard’s story. Mr Braddock let them troop in and out of the box without stay, until the last had given his evidence. Then he rose again. He smiled triumphantly at Sir Henry Merriman as he did so, and Sir Henry returned the smile, for he had kept back a trump card, of which Mr Braddock was unaware.
‘Do you know,’ Mr Braddock asked, ‘of any quarrel which Rexall had with one of the prisoners?’
‘Aye, it was that scared-looking one in the front row,’ and the witness, a wizened rat-like man, raised a finger and pointed at the boy Tims.
‘Can you tell us about it?’
‘Why, ’e met the boy in the street and ’e started a teasing of ’im. An’ the boy up an’ slapped ’is face.’
‘And what did Rexall do?’
‘Nought. That’s only a mad boy.’
Mr Braddock sat down. Sir Henry turned to Mr Farne and spoke under his breath. ‘The swine. They are going to throw suspicion on that half-wit. Shall we re-examine?’
‘No need,’ said Mr Farne. ‘Our next witness smashes their whole tale.’
‘Andrews.’ The name, his own name, overwhelmed him where he stood by the window. He turned and faced the officer who called him as he would face an enemy, with clenched fists. ‘Get on, you sneak.’ A voice came to him from the benches. He wanted to stay and explain, to tell them that he was about to stand in greater danger than did the prisoners in the dock – ‘betraying them thus openly I stand above them.’ But bowing his head so that he should not see their contemptuous faces as he passed from the room, he passed down the long corridor into the Court. As he went he fingered his cheek, which smarted where it had been struck.
He allowed himself to be pushed forward into the witness box, murmured without noting them the familiar words ‘the whole truth … nothing but the truth,’ but still did not raise his eyes. He was afraid of the anger and astonishment on the faces of the prisoners. He knew too well how each would look, how Druce would finger his lower lip, how Hake would pull at a particular portion of his beard. He knew, as though he heard them, the words they would whisper to each other. Haven’t I lived with them, eaten with them, slept with them, for three years? he thought. He was afraid to look at the gallery. There would be young, desirable women there who would watch him with contempt – ‘The informer, traitor, Judas.’ Not even honour among thieves. And he was afraid, too, damnably afraid. Suppose that he should raise his eyes and see Carlyon there, the ape-like face he had seen transfigured with an ideal, the face which, during three years of misery, he had come near to worshipping, now filled with loathing. It was not incredible. It was ju
‘Are you Francis Andrews?’ It was Sir Henry Merriman who spoke, but the question struck the witness like an accusation, like another blow on the cheek. His blood quickened to meet it. Elizabeth had said to him, ‘Go to Lewes, go to the Assizes, bear your witness and you will have shown yourself to have more courage than they.’ You are here for lust of your body, the inner critic murmured, but with a gesture of the hands visible to those in Court, he renounced that motive and that reward. ‘No,’ he whispered, his lips moving, ‘for Elizabeth.’ The sound of her name gave him courage. It was like a trumpet blown a long way off by a pale courageous spirit. He raised his eyes.
‘I am,’ he answered.
Imagination had steeled him to meet the expected gestures. They did not affect him. For the unexpected he was not ready. Tims leant forward with a smile of recognition and of relief. His smile said as clearly as though he had spoken, ‘We are all right now. Here’s a friend.’
Andrews turned his eyes hastily away and watched the gallery.
‘Where were you on the night of February 10?’
‘On board the Good Chance.’
‘What were you doing there?’
Thank God! Carlyon was not there. ‘I was engaged in smuggling. We were to run a cargo that night.’
Mr Farne smiled triumphantly along the table at Mr Braddock and Mr Braddock scowled back. His purple face turned an unpleasant shade of blue. He rose and began to speak hurriedly to one of the men in the dock.
‘How long had you been engaged in this – profession?’
‘Do you see any of your companions in the Court?’
Still watching the gallery in fear of seeing a familiar face Andrews nodded. ‘Yes.’
‘Will you point them out to the jury?’
Out of the vague turmoil of unfamiliar faces, faces old and young, fat and lean, fresh and faded, swam towards him a man’s face, thin, livid, cunning, with receding chin and squinting eyes. The eyes avoided his, but presently returned with a kind of terrified fascination.
‘Will you point them out to the jury?’ Sir Henry Merriman repeated with impatience. The face knew that it was seen and recognized. A tongue appeared and moistened the lips. The eyes no longer avoided Andrews’, but clung to them in apprehensive appeal. Andrews knew that he had only to raise his finger, point to the gallery, ‘there,’ and another of his enemies would be rendered powerless. Only Carlyon and that blundering giant Joe would remain. The face knew it also. Andrews began to raise his hand. It was the safest course. If he let Cockney Harry go free, Carlyon would know for certain who their betrayer was.
‘There,’ he said and pointed to the dock. You fool, you fool, you sentimental fool, he taunted silently in his heart, and his heart marvellously, miraculously, did not care. It was light and drunken with its triumph over his cowardly body and carried with pride like a banner the name of a girl. This will cost you your life, he told himself, but that distant trumpet and that close banner at his heart gave him courage. I will win through, he answered, and she will praise me. This is the first foolish thoughtless thing which I have ever done.
Because he looked no longer at the gallery, Andrews did not see a stout old woman, with flippant streaks of yellow hair, struggling towards the door, and when two minutes later Mr Braddock, a scrap of white paper in his hand, left the Court, he was answering a question from Sir Henry Merriman. ‘And what did you do there?’
‘I helped load the boat with the casks of brandy. Then I got in with them and rowed to the shore. They began to unload the cargo, and while they were doing it I slipped away. There was no moon. It was very dark and they did not see me go. I got away among the dunes and hid.’
‘Why did you slip away?’
‘I didn’t want to be there when the gaugers appeared.’
‘How did you know that the gaugers were there?’
‘Two days before I had sent an anonymous letter to the officer in command at Shoreham stating the time when we intended to run the cargo and the exact place where it was to be run.’
‘You went and hid among the dunes. What happened then?’
‘There was suddenly a lot of shouting and the sound of men running. Then there were shots. I waited till all the noise was over and then I crept away.’
‘Now, be careful in answering. Can you tell the jury who were with you when you landed?’
‘Yes.’ He named without hesitation the men in the dock.
‘Were there any others?’
‘Yes. Carlyon, the leader, a man we called Cockney Harry and Joe Collier.’
‘Do you know where these men are now?’
Again his eyes met the eyes in the gallery. Again his enemy’s eyes were full of terrified appeal. Andrews smiled. He was sure of himself now. ‘No,’ he said.
‘While you were hiding how many shots did you hear fired?’
‘I don’t know. They were all together and confused.’
‘More than one man was firing in fact?’
‘It has been suggested that one of your companions had a personal quarrel with the man Rexall. Do you know anything about that?’
‘Thank you. That will do.’
As Sir Henry Merriman sat down, Mr Braddock re-entered the Court.
He smiled a little maliciously at Sir Henry and began his cross-examination.
‘How long have you been associated with the crew of the Good Chance?’
‘For three years.’
‘Have your relations with them been friendly?’
‘In a way.’
‘What do you mean by “in a way”?’
Andrews narrowed his eyes and answered not to counsel but to the men in the dock. ‘I was on sufferance,’ he said, ‘treated with contempt. My opinion was never consulted.’
‘Why didn’t you leave them?’
‘Mr Braddock, is this relevant?’ Sir Edward Parkin asked, with a note of petulance.
‘My lord, in my submission, highly. If your Lordship will have patience –’
‘Very well then, go on.’
‘Why didn’t you leave them?’ Mr Braddock repeated fiercely. Andrews turned his eyes away from the familiar faces in the dock and gazed at the red choleric face of counsel. It amused him to think that a man with a face like that should question him on such shadowy things as motives. Facts, hard and firm as chips of wood, were the only things that he would appreciate.
‘I had nowhere to go,’ he said, ‘and no money.’
‘Did it ever occur to you to work honestly for your living?’
‘Did you have any other motive in remaining with the Good Chance for three years?’
‘Yes, friendship for Carlyon.’
‘Why did you first join?’
‘Friendship for Carlyon.’
‘The man whom you have betrayed?’
Andrews reddened and felt his cheek with the tips of his fingers. ‘Yes.’
‘What were your motives for laying information with the Revenue?’
‘Do you really want to know that?’ Andrews asked. ‘Isn’t it wasting your time and the time of the Court?’
‘Don’t make speeches,’ Sir Edward Parkin snapped in his high, supercilious voice. ‘Answer the questions put to you.’
It was because I had a father whom I hated and he was always being put before me as a model. It made me mad. And I’m a coward. You all know that.’ Andrews gripped the edge of the box and leant forward, his voice angry, his face red and ashamed. ‘I was afraid of being hurt and I hated the sea and the noise and the danger. And unless I did something it would have gone on for always and always. And I wanted to show those men that I was someone to be considered, that I had the power to smash all their plans.’
‘And to hang them?’
‘And your friend, the man Carlyon? Did you do nothing to warn him?’
‘It was a case of him or me.’
A bearded man called Hake in the second row of the prisoners sprang to his feet and shook his fist at Andrews. ‘It’s him or you still,’ he cried. ‘He’ll get you for this.’ A warder pulled him down.
The Court was growing unbearably stuffy. The judge and the ladies in the gallery were fluttering scented handkerchiefs. Andrews’ forehead was hot and sticky with sweat. He wiped it with the palm of his hand. He felt as though he had been standing for hours exposed to the gaze of the Court. His lips were dry and he longed for water. Give me strength to go through with this, he implored silently – not of God but of the image which he carried in his heart and behind which he tried to hide the faces that watched him.
‘Where is your father?’ Mr Braddock asked.
‘In Hell I hope,’ Andrews answered, and a burst of laughter from the gallery came like a breath of cool spring wind to a tropic night. No relief of cool winds was allowed in a court of justice. Laughter was suppressed by the usher’s cries.
‘Do you mean that he is dead?’
‘And it was jealousy of a dead man which impelled you to betray comrades of three years’ standing?’
‘Do you expect the jury to understand that?’
‘No.’ Andrews’ voice drooped wearily. He felt a sudden longing to explain to this red-faced counsel who plagued him so with questions that he had not slept all night. ‘I don’t expect anyone to understand,’ he said. In his heart he added – save Elizabeth – and Carlyon.
‘Do you expect the jury to believe it?’
‘It is true.’
The red face came at him again with the persistence of an insect.
‘I suggest to you that your whole story is untrue?’
Andrews shook his head, but he could not shake off that voice which came at him again and again and again.
‘That you never laid any information?’
‘That you are telling this story to save yourself from the dock?’
‘That you never landed with a cargo on the night of February 10?’