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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Vicar Of Bullhampton - Chapter 69. The Trial
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The Vicar Of Bullhampton - Chapter 69. The Trial Post by :Ahmad Category :Long Stories Author :Anthony Trollope Date :May 2012 Read :2742

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The Vicar Of Bullhampton - Chapter 69. The Trial


The miller, as he was starting from his house door, had called his daughter by her own name for the first time since her return home,--and Carry had been comforted. But no further comfort came to her during her journey to Salisbury from her father's speech. He hardly spoke the whole morning, and when he did say a word as to any matter on the work they had in hand, his voice was low and melancholy. Carry knew well, as did every one at Bullhampton, that her father was a man not much given to conversation, and she had not expected him to talk to her; but the silence, together with the load at her heart as to the ordeal of her examination, was very heavy on her. If she could have asked questions, and received encouragement, she could have borne her position comparatively with ease.

The instructions with which the miller was furnished required that Carry Brattle should present herself at a certain office in Salisbury at a certain hour on that Wednesday. Exactly at that hour she and her father were at the place indicated, already having visited their lodgings at Mrs. Stiggs'. They were then told that they would not be again wanted on that day, but that they must infallibly be in the Court the next morning at half-past nine. The attorney's clerk whom they saw, when he learned that Sam Brattle was not yet in Salisbury, expressed an opinion as to that young man's iniquity which led Carry to think that he was certainly in more danger than either of the prisoners. As they left the office, she suggested to her father that a message should be immediately sent to Bullhampton after Sam. "Let 'un be," said the miller; and it was all that he did say. On that evening they retired to the interior of one of the bedrooms at Trotter's Buildings, at four o'clock in the afternoon, and did not leave the house again. Anything more dreary than those hours could not be imagined. The miller, who was accustomed to work hard all day and then to rest, did not know what to do with his limbs. Carry, seeing his misery, and thinking rather of that than her own, suggested to him that they should go out and walk round the town. "Bide as thee be," said the miller; "it ain't no time now for showing theeself." Carry took the rebuke without a word, but turned her head to hide her tears.

And the next day was worse, because it was longer. Exactly at half-past nine they were down at the court; and there they hung about till half-past ten. Then they were told that their affair would not be brought on till the Friday, but that at half-past nine on that day, it would undoubtedly be commenced; and that if Sam was not there then, it would go very hard with Sam. The miller, who was beginning to lose his respect for the young man from whom he received these communications, muttered something about Sam being all right. "You'll find he won't be all right if he isn't here at half-past nine to-morrow," said the young man. "There is them as their bark is worse than their bite," said the miller. Then they went back to Trotter's Buildings, and did not stir outside of Mrs. Stiggs' house throughout the whole day.

On the Friday, which was in truth to be the day of the trial, they were again in court at half-past nine; and there, as we have seen, they were found, two hours later, by Mr. Fenwick, waiting patiently while the great preliminary affair of the dealer in meat was being settled. At that hour Sam had not made his appearance; but between twelve and one he sauntered into the comfortless room in which Carry was still sitting with her father. The sight of him was a joy to poor Carry, as he would speak to her, and tell her something of what was going on. "I'm about in time for the play, father," he said, coming up to them. The miller picked up his hat, and scratched his head, and muttered something. But there had been a sparkle in his eye when he saw Sam. In truth, the sight in all the world most agreeable to the old man's eyes was the figure of his youngest son. To the miller no Apollo could have been more perfect in beauty, and no Hercules more useful in strength. Carry's sweet woman's brightness had once been as dear to him,--but all that had now passed away.

"Is it a'going all through?" asked the miller, referring to the mill.

"Running as pretty as a coach-and-four when I left at seven this morning," said Sam.

"And how did thee come?"

"By the marrow-bone stage, as don't pay no tolls; how else?" The miller did not express a single word of approbation, but he looked up and down at his son's legs and limbs, delighted to think that the young man was at work in the mill this morning, had since that walked seventeen miles, and now stood before them showing no sign of fatigue.

"What are they a'doing on now, Sam?" asked Carry, in a whisper. Sam had already been into the court, and was able to inform them that the "big swell of all was making a speech, in which he was telling everybody every 'varsal thing about it. And what do you think, father?"

"I don't think nothing," said the miller.

"They've been and found Trumbull's money-box buried in old mother Burrows's garden at Pycroft." Carry uttered the slightest possible scream as she heard this, thinking of the place which she had known so well. "Dash my buttons if they ain't," continued Sam. "It's about up with 'em now."

"They'll be hung--of course," said the miller.

"What asses men is," said Sam; "--to go to bury the box there! Why didn't they smash it into atoms?"

"Them as goes crooked in big things is like to go crooked in little," said the miller.

At about two Sam and Carry were told to go into Court, and way was made for the old man to accompany them. At that moment the cross-examination was being continued of the man who, early on the Sunday morning, had seen the Grinder with his companion in the cart on the road leading towards Pycroft Common. A big burly barrister, with a broad forehead and grey eyes, was questioning this witness as to the identity of the men in the cart; and at every answer that he received he turned round to the jury as though he would say "There, then, what do you think of the case now, when such a man as that is brought before you to give evidence?" "You will swear, then, that these two men who are here in the dock were the two men you saw that morning in that cart?" The witness said that he would so swear. "You knew them both before, of course?" The witness declared that he had never seen either of them before in his life. "And you expect the jury to believe, now that the lives of these men depend on their believing it, that after the lapse of a year you can identify these two men, whom you had never seen before, and who were at that time being carried along the road at the rate of eight or ten miles an hour?" The witness, who had already encountered a good many of these questions, and who was inclined to be rough rather than timid, said that he didn't care twopence what the jury believed. It was simply his business to tell what he knew. Then the judge looked at that wicked witness,--who had talked in this wretched, jeering way about twopence!--looked at him over his spectacles, and shaking his head as though with pity at that witness's wickedness, cautioned him as to the peril of his body, making, too, a marked reference to the peril of his soul by that melancholy wagging of the head. Then the burly barrister with the broad forehead looked up beseechingly to the jury. Was it right that any man should be hung for any offence against whom such a witness as this was brought up to give testimony? It was the manifest feeling of the crowd in the court that the witness himself ought to be hung immediately. "You may go down, sir," said the burly barrister, giving an impression to those who looked on, but did not understand, that the case was over as far as it depended on that man's evidence. The burly barrister himself was not so sanguine. He knew very well that the judge who had wagged his head in so melancholy a way at the iniquity of a witness who had dared to say that he didn't care twopence, would, when he was summing up, refer to the presence of the two prisoners in the cart as a thing fairly supported by evidence. The amount of the burly barrister's achievement was simply this,--that for the moment a sort of sympathy was excited on behalf of the prisoners by the disapprobation which was aroused against the wicked man who hadn't cared twopence. Sympathy, like electricity, will run so quick that no man may stop it. If sympathy might be made to run through the jury-box there might perchance be a man or two there weak enough to entertain it to the prejudice of his duty on that day. The hopes of the burly barrister in this matter did not go further than that.

Then there was another man put forward who had seen neither of the prisoners, but had seen the cart and pony at Pycroft Common, and had known that the cart and pony were for the time in the possession of the Grinder. He was questioned by the burly barrister about himself rather than about his evidence; and when he had been made to own that he had been five times in prison, the burly barrister was almost justified in the look he gave to the jury, and he shook his head as though in sorrow that his learned friend on the other side should have dared to bring such a man as that before them as a witness.

Various others were brought up and examined before poor Carry's turn had come; and on each occasion, as one after another was dismissed from the hands of the burly barrister, here one crushed and confounded, there another loud and triumphant, her heart was almost in her throat. And yet though she so dreaded the moment when it should come, there was a sense of wretched disappointment in that she was kept waiting. It was now between four and five, and whispers began to be rife that the Crown would not finish their case that day. There was much trouble and more amusement with the old woman who had been Trumbull's housekeeper. She was very deaf; but it had been discovered that there was an old friendship between her and the Grinder's mother, and that she had at one time whispered the fact of the farmer's money into the ears of Mrs. Burrows of Pycroft Common. Deaf as she was, she was made to admit this. Mrs. Burrows was also examined, but she would admit nothing. She had never heard of the money, or of Farmer Trumbull, or of the murder,--not till the world heard of it, and she knew nothing about her son's doings or comings or goings. No doubt she had given shelter to a young woman at the request of a friend of her son, the young woman paying her ten shillings a week for her board and lodging. That young woman was Carry Brattle. Her son and that young man had certainly been at her house together; but she could not at all say whether they had been there on that Sunday morning. Perhaps, of all who had been examined Mrs. Burrows was the most capable witness, for the lawyer who examined her on behalf of the Crown was able to extract absolutely nothing from her. When she turned herself round with an air of satisfaction, to face the questions of the burly barrister, she was told that he had no question to ask her. "It's all as one to me, sir," said Mrs. Burrows, as she smoothed her apron and went down.

And then it was poor Carry's turn. When the name of Caroline Brattle was called she turned her eyes beseechingly to her father, as though hoping that he would accompany her in this the dreaded moment of her punishment. She caught him convulsively by the sleeve of the coat, as she was partly dragged and partly shoved on towards the little box in which she was to take her stand. He accompanied her to the foot of the two or three steps which she was called on to ascend, but of course he could go no further with her.

"I'll bide nigh thee, Carry," he said; and it was the only word which he had spoken to comfort her that day. It did, however, serve to lessen her present misery, and added something to her poor stock of courage. "Your name is Caroline Brattle?" "And you were living on the thirty-first of last August with Mrs. Burrows at Pycroft Common?" "Do you remember Sunday the thirty-first of August?" These, and two or three other questions like them were asked by a young barrister in the mildest tone he could assume. "Speak out, Miss Brattle," he said, "and then there will be nothing to trouble you." "Yes, sir," she said, in answer to each of the questions, still almost in a whisper.

Nothing to trouble her, and all the eyes of that cruel world around fixed upon her! Nothing to trouble her, and every ear on the alert to hear her,--young and pretty as she was,--confess her own shame in that public court! Nothing to trouble her, when she would so willingly have died to escape the agony that was coming on her! For she knew that it would come. Though she had never been in a court of law before, and had had no one tell her what would happen, she knew that the question would be asked. She was sure that she would be made to say what she had been before all that crowd of men.

The evidence which she could give, though it was material, was very short. John Burrows and Lawrence Acorn had come to the cottage on Pycroft Common on that Sunday morning, and there she had seen both of them. It was daylight when they came, but still it was very early. She had not observed the clock, but she thought that it may have been about five. The men were in and out of the house, but they had some breakfast. She had risen from bed to help to get them their breakfast. If anything had been buried by them in the garden, she had known nothing of it. She had then received three sovereigns from Acorn, whom she was engaged to marry. From that day to the present she had never seen either of the men. As soon as she heard of the suspicion against Acorn, and that he had fled, she conceived her engagement to be at an end. All this she testified, with infinite difficulty, in so low a voice that a man was sworn to stand by her and repeat her answers aloud to the jury;--and then she was handed over to the burly barrister.

She had been long enough in the court to perceive, and had been clever enough to learn, that this man would be her enemy. Though she had been unable to speak aloud in answering the counsel for the prosecution, she had quite understood that the man was her friend,--that he was only putting to her those questions which must be asked,--and questions which she could answer without much difficulty. But when she was told to attend to what the other gentleman would say to her, then, indeed, her poor heart failed her.

It came at once. "My dear, I believe you have been indiscreet?" The words, perhaps, had been chosen with some idea of mercy, but certainly there was no mercy in the tone. The man's voice was loud, and there was something in it almost of a jeer,--something which seemed to leave an impression on the hearer that there had been pleasure in the asking it. She struggled to make an answer, and the monosyllable, yes, was formed by her lips. The man who was acting as her mouthpiece stooped down his ears to her lips, and then shook his head. Assuredly no sound had come from them that could have reached his sense, had he been ever so close. The burly barrister waited in patience, looking now at her, and now round at the court. "I must have an answer. I say that I believe you have been indiscreet. You know, I dare say, what I mean. Yes or no will do; but I must have an answer." She glanced round for an instant, trying to catch her father's eye; but she could see nothing; everything seemed to swim before her except the broad face of that burly barrister. "Has she given any answer?" he asked of the mouthpiece; and the mouthpiece again shook his head. The heart of the mouthpiece was tender, and he was beginning to hate the burly barrister. "My dear," said the burly barrister, "the jury must have the information from you."

Then gradually there was heard through the court the gurgling sounds of irrepressible sobs,--and with them there came a moan from the old man, who was only divided from his daughter by the few steps,--which was understood by the whole crowd. The story of the poor girl, in reference to the trial, had been so noised about that it was known to all the listeners. That spark of sympathy, of which we have said that its course cannot be arrested when it once finds its way into a crowd, had been created, and there was hardly present then one, either man or woman, who would not have prayed that Carry Brattle might be spared if it were possible. There was a juryman there, a father with many daughters, who thought that it might not misbecome him to put forward such a prayer himself.

"Perhaps it mayn't be necessary," said the soft-hearted juryman.

But the burly barrister was not a man who liked to be taught his duty by any one in court,--not even by a juryman,--and his quick intellect immediately told him that he must seize the spark of sympathy in its flight. It could not be stopped, but it might be turned to his own purpose. It would not suffice for him now that he should simply defend the question he had asked. The court was showing its aptitude for pathos, and he also must be pathetic on his own side. He knew well enough that he could not arrest public opinion which was going against him, by shewing that his question was a proper question; but he might do so by proving at once how tender was his own heart.

"It is a pain and grief to me," said he, "to bring sorrow upon any one. But look at those prisoners at the bar, whose lives are committed to my charge, and know that I, as their advocate, love them while they are my clients as well as any father can love his child. I will spend myself for them, even though it may be at the risk of the harsh judgment of those around me. It is my duty to prove to the jury on their behalf that the life of this young woman has been such as to invalidate her testimony against them;--and that duty I shall do, fearless of the remarks of any one. Now I ask you again, Caroline Brattle, whether you are not one of the unfortunates?"

This attempt of the burly barrister was to a certain extent successful. The juryman who had daughters of his own had been put down, and the barrister had given, at any rate, an answer to the attack that had been silently made on him by the feeling of the court. Let a man be ready with a reply, be it ever so bad a reply, and any attack is parried. But Carry had given no answer to the question, and those who looked at her thought it very improbable that she would be able to do so. She had clutched the arm of the man who stood by her, and in the midst of her sobs was looking round with snatched, quick, half-completed glances for protection to the spot on which her father and brother were standing. The old man had moaned once; but after that he uttered no sound. He stood leaning on his stick with his eyes fixed upon the ground, quite motionless. Sam was standing with his hands grasping the woodwork before him and his bold gaze fastened on the barrister's face, as though he were about to fly at him. The burly barrister saw it all and perceived that more was to be gained by sparing than by persecuting his witness, and resolved to let her go.

"I believe that will do," he said. "Your silence tells all that I wish the jury to know. You may go down." Then the man who had acted as mouthpiece led Carry away, delivered her up to her father, and guided them both out of court.

They went back to the room in which they had before been seated, and there they waited for Sam, who was called into the witness-box as they left the court.

"Oh, father," said Carry, as soon as the old man was again placed upon the bench. And she stood over him, and put her hand upon his neck.

"We've won through it, girl, and let that be enough," said the miller. Then she sat down close by his side, and not another word was spoken by them till Sam returned.

Sam's evidence was, in fact, but of little use. He had had dealings with Acorn, who had introduced him to Burrows, and had known the two men at the old woman's cottage on the Common. When he was asked, what these dealings had been, he said they were honest dealings.

"About your sister's marriage?" suggested the crown lawyer.

"Well,--yes," said Sam. And then he stated that the men had come over to Bullhampton and that he had accompanied them as they walked round Farmer Trumbull's house. He had taken them into the Vicar's garden; and then he gave an account of the meeting there with Mr. Fenwick. After that he had known and seen nothing of the men. When he testified so far he was handed over to the burly barrister.

The burly barrister tried all he knew, but he could make nothing of this witness. A question was asked him, the true answer to which would have implied that his sister's life had been disreputable. When this was asked Sam declared that he would not say a word about his sister one way or the other. His sister had told them all she knew about the murder, and now he had told them all he knew. He protested that he was willing to answer any questions they might ask him about himself; but about his sister he would answer none. When told that the information desired might be got in a more injurious way from other sources, he became rather impudent.

"Then you may go to--other sources," he said.

He was threatened with all manner of pains and penalties; but he made nothing of these threats, and was at last allowed to leave the box. When his evidence was completed the trial was adjourned for another day.

Though it was then late in the afternoon the three Brattles returned home that night. There was a train which took them to the Bullhampton Road station, and from thence they walked to the mill. It was a weary journey both for the poor girl and for the old man; but anything was better than delay for another night in Trotter's Buildings. And then the miller was unwilling to be absent from his mill one hour longer than was necessary. When there came to be a question whether he could walk, he laughed the difficulty to scorn in his quiet way. "Why shouldn't I walk it? Ain't I got to 'arn my bread every day?"

It was ten o'clock when they reached the mill, and Mrs. Brattle, not expecting them at that hour, was in bed. But Fanny was up, and did what she could to comfort them. But no one could ever comfort old Brattle. He was not susceptible to soft influences. It may almost be said that he condemned himself because he gave way to the daily luxury of a pipe. He believed in plenty of food, because food for the workman is as coals to the steam-engine, as oats to the horse,--the raw material out of which the motive power of labour must be made. Beyond eating and working a man had little to do, but just to wait till he died. That was his theory of life in these his latter days; and yet he was a man with keen feelings and a loving heart.

But Carry was comforted when her sister's arms were around her. "They asked me if I was bad," she said, "and I thought I should a' died, and I never answered them a word,--and at last they let me go." When Fanny inquired whether their father had been kind to her, she declared that he had been "main kind." "But, oh, Fanny! if he'd only say a word, it would warm one's heart; wouldn't it?"

On the following evening news reached Bullhampton that the Grinder had been convicted and sentenced to death, but that Lawrence Acorn had been acquitted. The judge, in his summing up, had shown that certain evidence which applied to the Grinder had not applied to his comrade in the dock, and the jury had been willing to take any excuse for saving one man from the halter.

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