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- You Never Know Your Luck, Volume 1. - 6/10 -
entered the witness-box.
A court-room at any time seems a little warmer than any other spot to all except the prisoner; but on a July day it is likely to be a punishment for both innocent and guilty. A man had been killed by one of the group of toughs called locally the M'Mahon Gang, and against the charge of murder that of manslaughter had been set up in defence; and manslaughter might mean jail for a year or two or no jail at all. Any evidence which justified the charge of murder would mean not jail, but the rope in due course; for this was not Montana or Idaho, where the law's delays outlasted even the memory of the crime committed.
The court-room of Askatoon was crowded to suffocation, for the M'Mahons were detested, and the murdered man had a good reputation in the district. Besides, a widow and three children mourned their loss, and the widow was in court. Also Crozier's evidence was expected to be sensational, and to prove the swivel on which the fate of the accused man would hang. Among those on the inside it was also known that the clever but dissipated Augustus Burlingame, the counsel for the prisoner, had a grudge against Crozier,--no one quite knew why except Kitty Tynan and her mother, and that cross-examination would be pressed mercilessly when Crozier entered the witness-box. As Burlingame came into the court-room he said to the Young Doctor--he was always spoken of as the Young Doctor in Askatoon, though he had been there a good many years and he was no longer as young as he looked--who was also called as a witness, "We'll know more about Mr. J. G. Kerry when this trial is over than will suit his book." It did not occur to Augustus Burlingame that in Crozier, who knew why he had fled the house of the showy but virtuous Mrs. Tynan, he might find a witness of a mental and moral calibre with baffling qualities and some gift of riposte.
Crozier entered the witness-box at a stage when excitement was at fever height; for the M'Mahon Gang had given evidence which every one believed to be perjured; and the widow of the slain man was weeping bitterly in her seat because of noxious falsehoods sworn against her honest husband.
There was certainly someting credible and prepossessing in the look of Crozier. He might be this or that, but he carried no evil or vice of character in his face. He was in his grave mood this summer afternoon. There he stood with his long face and the very heavy eyebrows, clean- shaven, hard-bitten, as though by wind and weather, composed and forceful, the mole on his chin a kind of challenge to the vertical dimple in his cheek, his high forehead more benevolent than intellectual, his brown hair faintly sprinkled with grey and a bit unmanageable, his fathomless eyes shining. "No man ought to have such eyes," remarked a woman present to the Young Doctor, who abstractedly nodded assent, for, like Malachi Deely and John Sibley, he himself had a theory about Crozier; and he had a fear of what the savage enmity of the morally diseased Burlingame might do. He had made up his mind that so intense a scrupulousness as Crozier had shown since coming to Askatoon had behind it not only character, but the rigidity of a set purpose; and that view was supported by the stern economy of Crozier's daily life, broken only by sudden bursts of generosity for those in need.
In the box Crozier kept his eye on the crown attorney, who prosecuted, and on the judge. He appeared not to see any one in the court-room, though Kitty Tynan had so placed herself that he must see her if he looked at the audience at all. Kitty thought him magnificent as he told his story with a simple parsimony but a careful choice of words which made every syllable poignant with effect. She liked him in his grave mood even better than when he was aflame with an internal fire of his own creation, when he was almost wildly vivid with life.
"He's two men," she had often said to herself; and she said it now as she looked at him in the witness-box, measuring out his words and measuring off at the same time the span of a murderer's life; for when the crown attorney said to the judge that he had concluded his examination there was no one in the room--not even the graceless Burlingame--who did not think the prisoner guilty.
"That is all," the crown attorney said to Crozier as he sank into his chair, greatly pleased with one of the best witnesses who had ever been through his hands--lucid, concentrated, exact, knowing just where he was going and reaching his goal without meandering. Crozier was about to step down when Burlingame rose.
"I wish to ask a few questions," he said.
Crozier bowed and turned, again grasping the rail of the witness-box with one hand, while with an air of cogitation and suspense he stroked his chin with the long fingers of the other hand.
"What is your name?" asked Burlingame in a tone a little louder than he had used hitherto in the trial, indeed even louder than lawyers generally use when they want to bully a witness. In this case it was as though he wished to summon the attention of the court.
For a second Crozier's fingers caught his chin almost spasmodically. The real meaning of the question, what lay behind it, flashed to his mind. He saw in lightning illumination the course Burlingame meant to pursue. For a moment his heart seemed to stand still, and he turned slightly pale, but the blue of his eyes took on a new steely look--a look also of striking watchfulness, as of an animal conscious of its danger, yet conscious too of its power when at bay.
"What is your name?" Burlingame asked again in a somewhat louder tone, and turned to look at the jury, as if bidding them note the hesitation of the witness; though, indeed, the waiting was so slight that none but a trickster like Burlingame would have taken advantage of it, and only then when there was much behind.
For a moment longer Crozier remained silent, getting strength, as it were, and saying to himself, "What does he know?" and then, with a composed look of inquiry at the judge, who appeared to take no notice, he said: "I have already, in evidence, given my name to the court."
"Witness, what is your name?" again almost shouted the lawyer, with a note of indignation in his voice, as though here was a dangerous fellow committing a misdemeanour in their very presence. He spread out his hands to the jury, as though bidding them observe, if they would, this witness hesitating in answer to a simple, primary question--a witness who had just sworn a man's life away!
"What is your name?"
"James Gathorne Kerry, as I have already given it to the court," was the calm reply.
"Where do you live?"
"In Askatoon, as I have already said in evidence; and if it is necessary to give my domicile, I live at the house of Mrs. Tyndall Tynan, Pearl Street--as you know so well."
The tone in which he uttered the last few words was such that even the judge pricked up his ears.
A look of hatred came into the decadent but able lawyer's face.
"Where do you live when you are at home?"
"Mrs. Tynan's house is the only home I have at present."
He was outwitting the pursuer so far, but it only gained him time, as he knew; and he knew also that no suggestive hint concerning the episode at Mrs. Tynan's, when Burlingame was asked to leave her house, would be of any avail now.
"Where were you born?"
"What part of Ireland?"
"What place--what town or city or village in County Kerry?"
"What house, then--what estate?" Burlingame was more than nettled; and he sharpened his sword.
"The estate of Castlegarry."
"What was your name in Ireland?"
In the short silence that followed, the quick-drawn breath of many excited and some agitated people could be heard. Among the latter were Mrs. Tynan and her daughter and Malachi Deely; among those who held their breath in suspence were John Sibley, Studd Bradley the financier, and the Young Doctor. The swish of a skirt seemed ridiculously loud in the hush, and the scratching of the judge's quill pen was noisily irritating.
"My name in Ireland was James Shiel Gathorne Crozier, commonly called Shiel Crozier," came the even reply from the witness-box.
"James Shiel Gathorne Crozier in Ireland, but James Gathorne Kerry here!" Burlingame turned to the jury significantly. "What other name have you been known by in or out of Ireland?" he added sharply to Crozier. "No other name so far as I know."
"No other name so far as you know," repeated the lawyer in a sarcastic tone intended to impress the court.
"Who was your father?"
"John Gathorne Crozier."
"He was a baronet."
"What was his business?"
"He had no profession, though he had business, of course."
"Ah, he lived by his wits?"
"No, he was not a lawyer! I have said he had no profession. He lived on his money on his estate."
The judge waved down the laughter at Burlingame's expense.
"In official documents what was his description?" snarled Burlingame.
"'Gentleman' was his designation in official documents."
"You, then, were the son of a gentleman?" There was a hateful suggestion in the tone.
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