The Man Within, p.12Graham Greene
A LITTLE AFTER midnight it began to rain, a dull steady dripping rain which never ceased. The sun rose, but not into sight. Grey banked clouds slowly appeared, and that was the one sign of day. Along Lewes High Street there was no sound save the regular drip, drip of water from pipes and gables and sign boards. Water streamed from the hair, the robes and the sword of the fat stone Justice on the Assize Court, as though she had just risen from the leaden waves of a ‘pleasure resort’, like Venus out of the Mediterranean. Unperturbed by cold and damp she stared across the street at the windows of the White Hart with an expressionless gaze. A blind was raised and a young man looked out for a moment at the street. Through another window the fading light of a candle could be seen moving upwards, as an elderly, sharp-featured man mounted the stairs to bed. The flames of the two street lamps ceased to be bright gold breaches in the dark and became finally a faint yellow smear on a grey page. Presently an elderly man shuffled along the pavement and turned them out. By order of Lewes Corporation day had officially begun.
For several hours yet there was no movement of human beings in the street. A thin grey cat trod delicately along the gutter in a kind of dignified despondency, and a dog came trotting from a side turning, tail erect in spite of the rain. The cat leapt up three steps of a house and stood with bristling curved back, spitting defiance, while the dog, crouching close to the ground, barked in short, sharp bursts, more for amusement than for any real enmity. The blind of the White Hart was again raised and the same young man looked out, watching the by-play with an intent interest. He was fully dressed and his eyes were strained as though he had been unable to sleep. The cat, suddenly conscious that she was a show for two male creatures, leapt on a railing and disappeared. Dog and man watched in disappointed boredom the steps on which she had stood.
About an hour later a gang of men appeared with brooms and attempted the impossible task of cleaning the street in preparation for the coming of the judge. Sir Edward Parkin was a man of the utmost fastidiousness and the Mayor had learned at a previous Assizes the unpleasant results of displeasing him. While the men scrubbed and brushed and the falling rain defeated their efforts, the clock of St Anne’s Church struck seven and the High Street sprang automatically to life. A milk cart rattled down the road, blinds clattered up, the smell of cooking foods crossed the street, maids came out of doors and emptied pails of water on the steps. As the day advanced little knots of people collected on the pavement and turning their backs on the Assize Court stared up the street. They were waiting for the judge.
In his lodgings Sir Edward Parkin buttered his toast deliberately. He was a short, plump man with a very white face and very white hands. It was rumoured in London that he powdered them like a woman. His voice, when he spoke across the table to his marshal, was high and affected. It played tricks at an empyrean height, curvetting like a skittish mare. He complained peevishly of the breakfast which had been laid before him.
At the White Hart Sir Henry Merriman breakfasted with his papers before him on some dry toast and coffee. Lucy was still in bed, and Mr Farne at the other end of the table was silent and thoughtful.
Sir Henry looked up. ‘Is he still in the hotel?’ he said.
Mr Farne nodded.
‘Will he stay the course, I wonder?’
Mr Farne shrugged his shoulders.
Outside, the javelin men marched along the street to the judge’s lodgings, their bright uniforms shining dimly through the grey veil of rain. They were followed at a short interval by the trumpeters of the local militia. They formed up outside the lodgings and Sir Edward Parkin rose, dusting crumbs from his knees. He had timed his breakfast to a minute. He sent his marshal out to find snuff. ‘It must be Bentley’s.’
At the prison they were fastening the irons on six men. Five were big bearded fellows who cursed, defiantly but in the best of humour. Their lawyer had seen them the previous day and he was supremely confident in the jury. They only needed a loophole for an acquittal and that loophole he had devised. The sixth man had not understood what the lawyer had said. He dimly realized that a man was dead, and he was in the dock for murder. He was white and shaken by sudden bouts of terrified tears. He was the half-witted boy Tims.
Some time before this a maid had knocked on Andrews’ door and offered him breakfast. He had refused it. He had no appetite. He felt that it was he who was about to enter the dock and be tried for his life. His mouth was so dry that he wondered how he would be able to answer counsel’s questions. ‘I am doing the right thing,’ he told himself over and over again. ‘This is what Elizabeth would have me do.’ But the answer was too obvious. ‘This is not for her.’ If only it were. He remembered how the day before he had seen her cottage from the down and had taken the smoke for turning, twisting birds. His heart too had flown that he now felt must drag in the mud for ever. He was afraid to raise her image, since it had been so easily and completely defeated by a courtesan. If it had not been for that, for the bargain he had made, he felt that he could have faced his trial, if not with courage, at least with an echo of a resemblance to it.
Somewhere from a long way off there came a broken blare of trumpets. It meant, he knew, that the judge was entering his carriage. Any moment now they would be coming for him. It was not fear so much as disgust and regret that filled his mind to the exclusion of any clear thought – disgust at his actions and his words the night before, disgust at the young lustful woman who had come between him and a strange, purifying dream, regret that he was going to face death for so mean a reason. He heard someone moving on the stairs. Was it too late? He flung himself on his knees beside the bed and prayed for the first time for many years, with a disjointed passion. ‘Oh God, if you are God,’ he implored, ‘give me courage. Forgive last night. I will try to forget it. I will try not to see that woman again. I will not take her reward. Give, give me back the old motive.’
Mr Farne’s face appeared in the doorway. ‘You must come along,’ he said. He looked puzzled, embarrassed and therefore a little angry.
Crowds lined the pavements, and a long queue had formed up in front of a side door for entrance to the public gallery. Andrews turned up the collar of his coat, lest he should be recognized. There were many in Lewes who knew his face, innkeepers to whom the smugglers had sold their goods, housekeepers with convenient cellars in which to store barrels.
In the Court was a buzz and movement, which made Andrews feel dizzy and confused. His brain was tired with the constant wakefulness of the previous night, and it was indistinctly, as though through a mist, that he picked out Sir Henry Merriman where he sat at the counsel’s table. Mr Farne had joined him and there was a third man whom Andrews did not know, as well as the two counsel for the prisoners. From where he stood he could not see the occupants of the dock and he was glad. His time would come in the witness box only too soon.
Outside the Court was a clash and rattle as the javelin men grounded their weapons, and then, heralded by a blare of trumpets and the usher’s cries, Mr Justice Parkin entered and took his seat. As though engaged in some children’s game of musical bumps the Court bobbed up and bobbed down. Mr Justice Parkin helped himself to Bentley’s snuff, and the buzz of conversation began again, as though the Court were a glass tumbler containing a number of irritated and heated flies. Already the solicitors had begun to yawn.
The Clerk of the Arraigns arose below the Bench and in a tone of intense boredom informed the six men in the dock that the good men whom they would hear called, and severally that did appear, were to pass between them and the King, upon the trial of their several lives or deaths: and that, if they meant to challenge them, or any of them, they must challenge them as they came to the Book to be sworn, and before they were sworn, and they should be heard. He then sat down again, closed his eyes and apparently went to sleep. Mr Justice Parkin smoothed his hands and gazed at the public gallery, where a number of young women sat.
The panel was then called over. There was a cha
‘Who’s this young child?’ said one.
‘Can’t even dress decently to appear before his lord high mightiness.’
‘Look at the mud on him. Street scavenger I’d say he is.’
An elderly man with a benevolent face called out to him. ‘What’s your name, young fellow?’
Andrews rose trustingly to the kindness in the voice. He felt very alone, standing in an isolated position, stared at and criticized by every man in the room. He longed to make an ally and so he answered promptly and truthfully, ‘Andrews.’
The elderly benevolent man turned sharply to his colleagues. ‘Andrews,’ he said, ‘that’s one of the men we’ve been looking for these last days.’ He got up and stood in front of Andrews with his hands on his hips. ‘You ought to be in the dock, you ought,’ he said. ‘What are you doing here, eh, contaminating this company? Aye, you’ve cause to blush, you have. You are among honest men here.’
‘Can’t you leave me alone?’ Andrews said. ‘I’m tired. I haven’t had any sleep.’
‘Nor you ought,’ the man said. ‘What are you doing here, aye? Sneaked on your comrades, aye?’ He turned to his companions and raised his hands protestingly. ‘I wouldn’t mind now if he was an honest smuggler,’ he said. ‘But a sneak thief, a damned informer. It’s too thick. Are we going to let him stay in this room among honest men?’
‘Hi, boy,’ called a man from the opposite bench, ‘is that true? Be you a bloody informer?’
‘O’ course he is,’ the elderly revenue man continued, twisting round again to face Andrews. He danced from one foot to the other. ‘Can’t you answer an honest question – you rat?’
Andrews clenched his fists and half closed his eyes. ‘I’m not low enough to take an insult from a gauger,’ he said.
‘Not, aye?’ the benevolent faced man asked and struck Andrews on the face with the palm of his hand.
Andrews raised his fist and then let it sink again to his side. Oh God, he silently implored, let this be my penance for last night Now do your part and give me courage. Aloud he said, ‘You are an old man if you are a gauger. I’m not going to fight you,’ and he turned his back on the room so that no one might see that his eyes were filled with tears. This is not the worst, he thought. How can I go through with this to the end?
‘Oh let him alone, Bill,’ someone said. ‘He’s only a kid.’
‘He stinks,’ said Bill abruptly. ‘Why should we be put in the same room as an informer? Either he clears out of here or else I clear out.’
‘You’ll clear out anyway,’ an officer said, putting his head through the door. ‘Your turn in Court. Get along now. Hurry.’
One by one they went, dropping out of Andrews’ sight like the sands of an hour-glass. He waited nervously for his own name to be called, but still he remained free, free to stare through the window at a rain-lashed sodden yard, with the knowledge that he had not yet finally put the seal upon his treachery. At last the moment came. ‘Andrews, Andrews,’ he heard his name called very faintly from the door of the Court, taken up louder and carried along the corridors, till it broke on him where he stood by the window cold and sick and frightened.
The Clerk of the Arraigns sat down and without a moment’s interval apparently subsided again into sleep. Sir Henry Merriman rose. ‘May it please your lordship, gentlemen of the jury …’ His voice showed no sign of the past sleepless, hard worked hours. Clear, cold, vital, it tautened the minds of all the idle spectators in court. The subdued murmur of conversation in the gallery ceased. The phrases with which he addressed the jury were time worn but were lit with new life by the fire of sincerity in the man himself. ‘You are to pronounce your verdict on the evidence and on the evidence alone. You are to forget all that you may have ever heard or read on the subject, for it is probably erroneous and is, at all events, unsupported by proof. You are to come to the consideration of this case with pure and dispassionate judgements, to hear the evidence, and give, on that evidence, a true verdict.’ A true verdict! Watching the twelve men opposite him he searched in vain for one answering spark of sincerity. They watched him back with cow-like, unintelligent and hostile faces. ‘You are trying to trick us into hanging our friends,’ they seemed to say.
‘Gentlemen, the crime with which the prisoners stand charged is one of great enormity, the death of a man.’ He was flinging his words against a wall of prejudice. To them he knew very well it was not the death of a man, but only the death of a gauger. It was useless to try and convince them that the life lost had any value. The only way in which he could get a conviction was by leaving them no loophole for acquittal.
‘The murdered man, Edward Rexall, was a revenue officer for the County of East Sussex and was stationed at Shoreham. His superior officer, Mr Thomas Hilliard, acting on certain information, proceeded with Rexall and ten other men on the night of February 10 to a point on the shore three miles east of Shoreham. The officers then concealed themselves behind the sand dunes which at that particular point fringe the shore. This was at 12.15 a.m. At a little after one a red light appeared to seaward hung apparently from the mast of a small lugger. Mr Hilliard then exposed a lantern found on one of the pack horses. Seven minutes later a ship’s boat grounded on the sand. In it were ten men, six of whom we hope to satisfy you are the men now in the dock. They were on the point of unloading a number of casks, when the quietness of the beach and the absence of their friends apparently aroused their suspicions, and they began hastily to re-embark. Mr Hilliard then showed himself and called upon them to surrender. The smugglers thereupon scattered and ran in various directions along the shore. Mr Hilliard had, however, so posted his men that they were able to drive the smugglers together again, when they would undoubtedly have captured the whole band, if the smugglers had not opened fire. In the momentary confusion which followed three of the smugglers escaped in the boat. Six, however, were captured, and it was then found that Edward Rexall had been shot dead. From start to end of the struggle no shot was fired by the revenue officers, and if there should be any doubt in your mind on this point, I propose to bring evidence to show that the bullet found in Rexall’s body was of a type carried by the smugglers and not of the type served out to officers of His Majesty’s service. It is not necessary for the prosecution to prove which of the men in the dock fired the fatal shot. It is not even necessary to prove that it was fired by one of the prisoners and not by one of the band who escaped. It was fired by one of the smugglers, whether he at this moment is standing in the dock or is flying for his life a hundred miles from here, and every member of the gang who took part in the resistance to His Majesty’s officers is as guilty of murder as if he was himself seen to fire the bullet which killed Rexall. It is seldom, gentlemen, that murder is committed under circumstances which enable us to bring forward eye-witnesses of the crime. This case, therefore, is an unusually simple one for you to decide. I have detailed to you the principal facts whic
Mr Hilliard was called. His evidence seemed to leave no loophole for acquittal. Sir Henry Merriman, watching the jury between every question, saw them stir restlessly, uneasily. Mr Braddock, who led for the defence, rose to cross-examine. He was a large man with an apoplectic face which might well have been formed by an undue consumption of contraband liquor. His hair was black, just mottled with grey, but his eyebrows made a continuous dead white streak like a scar across his face. He scowled at Mr Hilliard, leaned a long way backward, as though the better to spring, wrapped his gown tight round his arms by a fierce circular movement and pounced.
‘Are you considered by your superiors an efficient officer, Mr Hilliard?’
Mr Hilliard flushed crimson and gazed appealingly at the judge.
‘Is that a relevant question, Mr Braddock?’ said the judge.
‘It is, my lord,’ Mr Braddock returned briskly. Sir Edward Parkin was visibly put out. ‘The witness cannot be asked what his superiors think, Mr Braddock.’
Mr Braddock glared and gulped and turned again on the witness.
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