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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesOrley Farm - Volume 2 - Chapter 61. The State Of Public Opinion
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Orley Farm - Volume 2 - Chapter 61. The State Of Public Opinion Post by :Fire_Lady Category :Long Stories Author :Anthony Trollope Date :May 2012 Read :1115

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Orley Farm - Volume 2 - Chapter 61. The State Of Public Opinion

VOLUME II CHAPTER LXI. THE STATE OF PUBLIC OPINION

The day of the trial was now quickly coming on, and the London world, especially the world of lawyers, was beginning to talk much on the subject. Men about the Inns of Court speculated as to the verdict, offering to each other very confident opinions as to the result, and offering, on some occasions, bets as well as opinions. The younger world of barristers was clearly of opinion that Lady Mason was innocent; but a portion, an unhappy portion, was inclined to fear, that, in spite of her innocence, she would be found guilty. The elder world of barristers was not, perhaps, so demonstrative, but in that world the belief in her innocence was not so strong, and the fear of her condemnation much stronger. The attorneys, as a rule, regarded her as guilty. To the policeman's mind every man not a policeman is a guilty being, and the attorneys perhaps share something of this feeling. But the attorneys to a man expected to see her acquitted. Great was their faith in Mr. Furnival; great their faith in Solomon Aram; but greater than in all was their faith in Mr. Chaffanbrass. If Mr. Chaffanbrass could not pull her through, with a prescription of twenty years on her side, things must be very much altered indeed in our English criminal court. To the outer world, that portion of the world which had nothing to do with the administration of the law, the idea of Lady Mason having been guilty seemed preposterous. Of course she was innocent, and of course she would be found to be innocent. And of course, also, that Joseph Mason of Groby Park was, and would be found to be, the meanest, the lowest, the most rapacious of mankind.

And then the story of Sir Peregrine's attachment and proposed marriage, joined as it was to various hints of the manner in which that marriage had been broken off, lent a romance to the whole affair, and added much to Lady Mason's popularity. Everybody had now heard of it, and everybody was also aware, that though the idea of a marriage had been abandoned, there had been no quarrel. The friendship between the families was as close as ever, and Sir Peregrine,--so it was understood--had pledged himself to an acquittal. It was felt to be a public annoyance that an affair of so exciting a nature should be allowed to come off in the little town of Alston. The court-house, too, was very defective in its arrangements, and ill qualified to give accommodation to the great body of would-be attendants at the trial. One leading newspaper went so far as to suggest, that in such a case as this, the antediluvian prejudices of the British grandmother--meaning the Constitution--should be set aside, and the trial should take place in London. But I am not aware that any step was taken towards the carrying out of so desirable a project.

Down at Hamworth the feeling in favour of Lady Mason was not perhaps so strong as it was elsewhere. Dockwrath was a man not much respected, but nevertheless many believed in him; and down there, in the streets of Hamworth, he was not slack in propagating his view of the question. He had no doubt, he said, how the case would go. He had no doubt, although he was well aware that Mr. Mason's own lawyers would do all they could to throw over their own client. But he was too strong, he said, even for that. The facts as he would bring them forward would confound Round and Crook, and compel any jury to find a verdict of guilty. I do not say that all Hamworth believed in Dockwrath, but his energy and confidence did have its effect, and Lady Mason's case was not upheld so strongly in her own neighbourhood as elsewhere.

The witnesses in these days were of course very important persons, and could not but feel the weight of that attention which the world would certainly pay to them. There would be four chief witnesses for the prosecution; Dockwrath himself, who would be prepared to speak as to the papers left behind him by old Usbech; the man in whose possession now remained that deed respecting the partnership which was in truth executed by old Sir Joseph on that fourteenth of July; Bridget Bolster; and John Kenneby. Of the manner in which Mr. Dockwrath used his position we already know enough. The man who held the deed, one Torrington, was a relative of Martock, Sir Joseph's partner, and had been one of his executors. It was not much indeed that he had to say, but that little sent him up high in the social scale during those days. He lived at Kennington, and he was asked out to dinner in that neighbourhood every day for a week running, on the score of his connection with the great Orley Farm case. Bridget Bolster was still down at the hotel in the West of England, and being of a solid, sensible, and somewhat unimaginative turn of mind, probably went through her duties to the last without much change of manner. But the effect of the coming scenes upon poor John Kenneby was terrible. It was to him as though for the time they had made of him an Atlas, and compelled him to bear on his weak shoulders the weight of the whole world. Men did talk much about Lady Mason and the coming trial; but to him it seemed as though men talked of nothing else. At Hubbles and Grease's it was found useless to put figures into his hands till all this should be over. Indeed it was doubted by many whether he would ever recover his ordinary tone of mind. It seemed to be understood that he would be cross-examined by Chaffanbrass, and there were those who thought that John Kenneby would never again be equal to a day's work after that which he would then be made to endure. That he would have been greatly relieved could the whole thing have been wiped away from him there can be no manner of doubt; but I fancy that he would also have been disappointed. It is much to be great for a day, even though the day's greatness should cause the shipwreck of a whole life.

"I shall endeavour to speak the truth," said John Kenneby, solemnly.

"The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth," said Moulder.

"Yes, Moulder, that will be my endeavour; and then I may lay my hand upon my bosom and think that I have done my duty by my country." And as Kenneby spoke he suited the action to the word.

"Quite right, John," said Mrs. Smiley. "Them's the sentiments of a man, and I, as a woman having a right to speak where you are concerned, quite approve of them."

"They'll get nothing but the truth out of John," said Mrs. Moulder; "not if he knows it." These last words she added, actuated by admiration of what she had heard of Mr. Chaffanbrass, and perhaps with some little doubt as to her brother's firmness.

"That's where it is," said Moulder. "Lord bless you, John, they'll turn you round their finger like a bit of red tape. Truth! Gammon! What do they care for truth?"

"But I care, Moulder," said Kenneby. "I don't suppose they can make me tell falsehoods if I don't wish it."

"Not if you're the man I take you to be," said Mrs. Smiley.

"Gammon!" said Moulder.

"Mr. Moulder, that's an objectionable word," said Mrs. Smiley. "If John Kenneby is the man I take him to be,--and who's a right to speak if I haven't, seeing that I am going to commit myself for this world into his hands?"--and Mrs. Smiley, as she spoke, simpered, and looked down with averted head on the fulness of her Irish tabinet--"if he's the man that I take him to be, he won't say on this thrilling occasion no more than the truth, nor yet no less. Now that isn't gammon--if I know what gammon is."

It will have been already seen that the party in question were assembled at Mr. Moulder's room in Great St. Helen's. There had been a little supper party there to commemorate the final arrangements as to the coming marriage, and the four were now sitting round the fire with their glasses of hot toddy at their elbows. Moulder was armed with his pipe, and was enjoying himself in that manner which most delighted him. When last we saw him he had somewhat exceeded discretion in his cups, and was not comfortable. But at the present nothing ailed him. The supper had been good, the tobacco was good, and the toddy was good. Therefore when the lovely Thais sitting beside him,--Thais however on this occasion having been provided not for himself but for his brother-in-law,--when Thais objected to the use of his favourite word, he merely chuckled down in the bottom of his fat throat, and allowed her to finish her sentence.

Poor John Kenneby had more--much more, on his hands than this dreadful trial. Since he had declared that the Adriatic was free to wed another, he had found himself devoted and given up to Mrs. Smiley. For some days after that auspicious evening there had been considerable wrangling between Mrs. Moulder and Mrs. Smiley as to the proceeds of the brick-field; and on this question Moulder himself had taken a part. The Moulder interest had of course desired that all right of management in the brick-field should be vested in the husband, seeing that, according to the usages of this country, brick-fields and their belongings appertain rather to men than to women; but Mrs. Smiley had soon made it evident that she by no means intended to be merely a sleeping partner in the firm. At one time Kenneby had entertained a hope of escape; for neither would the Moulder interest give way, nor would the Smiley. But two hundred a year was a great stake, and at last the thing was arranged, very much in accordance with the original Smiley view. And now at this most trying period of his life, poor Kenneby had upon his mind all the cares of a lover as well as the cares of a witness.

"I shall do my best," said John. "I shall do my best and then throw myself upon Providence."

"And take a little drop of something comfortable in your pocket," said his sister, "so as to sperrit you up a little when your name's called."

"Sperrit him up!" said Moulder; "why I suppose he'll be standing in that box the best part of a day. I knowed a man was a witness; it was a case of horse-stealing; and the man who was the witness was the man who'd took the horse."

"And he was witness against hisself!" said Mrs. Smiley.

"No; he'd paid for it. That is to say, either he had or he hadn't. That was what they wanted to get out of him, and I'm blessed if he didn't take 'em till the judge wouldn't set there any longer. And then they hadn't got it out of him."

"But John Kenneby ain't one of that sort," said Mrs. Smiley.

"I suppose that man did not want to unbosom himself," said Kenneby.

"Well; no. The likes of him seldom do like to unbosom themselves," said Moulder.

"But that will be my desire. If they will only allow me to speak freely whatever I know about this matter, I will give them no trouble."

"You mean to act honest, John," said his sister.

"I always did, Mary Anne."

"Well now, I'll tell you what it is," said Moulder. "As Mrs. Smiley don't like it I won't say anything more about gammon;--not just at present, that is."

"I've no objection to gammon, Mr. Moulder, when properly used," said Mrs. Smiley, "but I look on it as disrespectful; and seeing the position which I hold as regards John Kenneby, anything disrespectful to him is hurtful to my feelings."

"All right," said Moulder. "And now, John, I'll just tell you what it is. You've no more chance of being allowed to speak freely there than--than--than--no more than if you was in church. What are them fellows paid for if you're to say whatever you pleases out in your own way?"

"He only wants to say the truth, M.," said Mrs. Moulder, who probably knew less than her husband of the general usages of courts of law.

"Truth be ----," said Moulder.

"Mr. Moulder!" said Mrs. Smiley. "There's ladies by, if you'll please to remember."

"To hear such nonsense sets one past oneself," continued he; "as if all those lawyers were brought together there--the cleverest and sharpest fellows in the kingdom, mind you--to listen to a man like John here telling his own story in his own way. You'll have to tell your story in their way; that is, in two different ways. There'll be one fellow'll make you tell it his way first, and another fellow'll make you tell it again his way afterwards; and its odds but what the first 'll be at you again after that, till you won't know whether you stand on your heels or your head."

"That can't be right," said Mrs. Moulder.

"And why can't it be right?" said Moulder. "They're paid for it; it's their duties; just as it's my duty to sell Hubbles and Grease's sugar. It's not for me to say the sugar's bad, or the samples not equal to the last. My duty is to sell, and I sell;--and it's their duty to get a verdict."

"But the truth, Moulder--!" said Kenneby.

"Gammon!" said Moulder. "Begging your pardon, Mrs. Smiley, for making use of the expression. Look you here, John; if you're paid to bring a man off not guilty, won't you bring him off if you can? I've been at trials times upon times, and listened till I've wished from the bottom of my heart that I'd been brought up a barrister. Not that I think much of myself, and I mean of course with education and all that accordingly. It's beautiful to hear them. You'll see a little fellow in a wig, and he'll get up; and there'll be a man in the box before him,--some swell dressed up to his eyes, who thinks no end of strong beer of himself; and in about ten minutes he'll be as flabby as wet paper, and he'll say--on his oath, mind you,--just anything that that little fellow wants him to say. That's power, mind you, and I call it beautiful."

"But it ain't justice," said Mrs. Smiley.

"Why not? I say it is justice. You can have it if you choose to pay for it, and so can I. If I buy a greatcoat against the winter, and you go out at night without having one, is it injustice because you're perished by the cold while I'm as warm as a toast. I say it's a grand thing to live in a country where one can buy a greatcoat."

The argument had got so far, Mr. Moulder certainly having the best of it, when a ring at the outer door was heard.

"Now who on earth is that?" said Moulder.

"Snengkeld, I shouldn't wonder," said his wife.

"I hope it ain't no stranger," said Mrs. Smiley. "Situated as John and I are now, strangers is so disagreeable." And then the door was opened by the maid-servant, and Mr. Kantwise was shown into the room.

"Halloo, Kantwise!" said Mr. Moulder, not rising from his chair, or giving any very decided tokens of welcome. "I thought you were down somewhere among the iron foundries?"

"So I was, Mr. Moulder, but I came up yesterday. Mrs. Moulder, allow me to have the honour. I hope I see you quite well; but looking at you I need not ask. Mr. Kenneby, sir, your very humble servant. The day's coming on fast; isn't it, Mr. Kenneby? Ma'am, your very obedient. I believe I haven't the pleasure of being acquainted."

"Mrs. Smiley, Mr. Kantwise. Mr. Kantwise, Mrs. Smiley," said the lady of the house, introducing her visitors to each other in the appropriate way.

"Quite delighted, I'm sure," said Kantwise.

"Smiley as is, and Kenneby as will be this day three weeks," said Moulder; and then they all enjoyed that little joke, Mrs. Smiley by no means appearing bashful in the matter although Mr. Kantwise was a stranger.

"I thought I should find Mr. Kenneby here," said Kantwise, when the subject of the coming nuptials had been sufficiently discussed, "and therefore I just stepped in. No intrusion, I hope, Mr. Moulder."

"All right," said Moulder; "make yourself at home. There's the stuff on the table. You know what the tap is."

"I've just parted from--Mr. Dockwrath," said Kantwise, speaking in a tone of voice which implied the great importance of the communication, and looking round the table to see the effect of it upon the circle.

"Then you've parted from a very low-lived party, let me tell you that," said Moulder. He had not forgotten Dockwrath's conduct in the commercial room at Leeds, and was fully resolved that he never would forgive it.

"That's as may be," said Kantwise. "I say nothing on that subject at the present moment, either one way or the other. But I think you'll all agree as to this: that at the present moment Mr. Dockwrath fills a conspicuous place in the public eye."

"By no means so conspicuous as John Kenneby," said Mrs. Smiley, "if I may be allowed in my position to hold an opinion."

"That's as may be, ma'am. I say nothing about that. What I hold by is, that Mr. Dockwrath does hold a conspicuous place in the public eye. I've just parted with him in Gray's Inn Lane, and he says--that it's all up now with Lady Mason."

"Gammon!" said Moulder. And on this occasion Mrs. Smiley did not rebuke him. "What does he know about it more than any one else? Will he bet two to one? Because, if so, I'll take it;--only I must see the money down."

"I don't know what he'll bet, Mr. Moulder; only he says it's all up with her."

"Will he back his side, even handed?"

"I ain't a betting man, Mr. Moulder. I don't think it's right. And on such a matter as this, touching the liberty and almost life of a lady whom I've had the honour of seeing, and acquainted as I am with the lady of the other party, Mrs. Mason that is of Groby Park, I should rather, if it's no offence to you, decline the subject of--betting."

"Bother!"

"Now M., in your own house, you know!" said his wife.

"So it is bother. But never mind that. Go on, Kantwise. What is this you were saying about Dockwrath?"

"Oh, that's about all. I thought you would like to know what they were doing,--particularly Mr. Kenneby. I do hear that they mean to be uncommonly hard upon him."

The unfortunate witness shifted uneasily in his seat, but at the moment said nothing himself.

"Well, now, I can't understand it," said Mrs. Smiley, sitting upright in her chair, and tackling herself to the discussion as though she meant to express her opinion, let who might think differently. "How is any one to put words into my mouth if I don't choose to speak then? There's John's waistcoat is silk." Upon which they all looked at Kenneby's waistcoat, and, with the exception of Kantwise, acknowledged the truth of the assertion.

"That's as may be," said he, looking round at it from the corner of his eyes.

"And do you mean to say that all the barristers in London will make me say that it's made of cloth? It's ridic'lous--nothing short of ridic'lous."

"You've never tried, my dear," said Moulder.

"I don't know about being your dear, Mr. Moulder--"

"Nor yet don't I neither, Mrs. Smiley," said the wife.

"Mr. Kenneby's my dear, and I ain't ashamed to own him,--before men and women. But if he allows hisself to be hocussed in that way, I don't know but what I shall be ashamed. I call it hocussing--just hocussing."

"So it is, ma'am," said Kantwise, "only this, you know, if I hocus you, why you hocus me in return; so it isn't so very unfair, you know."

"Unfair!" said Moulder. "It's the fairest thing that is. It's the bulwark of the British Constitution."

"What! being badgered and browbeat?" asked Kenneby, who was thinking within himself that if this were so he did not care if he lived somewhere beyond the protection of that blessed Aegis.

"Trial by jury is," said Moulder. "And how can you have trial by jury if the witnesses are not to be cross-questioned?"

To this position no one was at the moment ready to give an answer, and Mr. Moulder enjoyed a triumph over his audience. That he lived in a happy and blessed country Moulder was well aware, and with those blessings he did not wish any one to tamper. "Mother," said a fastidious child to his parent, "the bread is gritty and the butter tastes of turnips." "Turnips indeed,--and gritty!" said the mother. "Is it not a great thing to have bread and butter at all?" I own that my sympathies are with the child. Bread and butter is a great thing; but I would have it of the best if that be possible.

After that Mr. Kantwise was allowed to dilate upon the subject which had brought him there. Mr. Dockwrath had been summoned to Bedford Row, and there had held a council of war together with Mr. Joseph Mason and Mr. Matthew Round. According to his own story Mr. Matthew had quite come round and been forced to acknowledge all that Dockwrath had done for the cause. In Bedford Row there was no doubt whatever as to the verdict. "That woman Bolster is quite clear that she only signed one deed," said Kantwise.

"I shall say nothing--nothing here," said Kenneby.

"Quite right, John," said Mrs. Smiley. "Your feelings on the occasion become you."

"I'll lay an even bet she's acquitted," said Moulder. "And I'll do it in a ten-p'und note."

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