The man within, p.14
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       The Man Within, p.14

           Graham Greene
 
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‘I did, I tell you.’

  ‘That you were with a woman, a notorious woman?’

  ‘No. It’s untrue.’

  Andrews’ weariness grew on him. He held the sides of the witness box as a support. I could sleep now, he said to himself.

  ‘Will you stand there on your oath and tell the jury that you have not been keeping company with a loose woman?’

  ‘No, I refused,’ he said wearily. He could not understand how this red bladder with the bullying voice was so well aware of his movements.

  ‘What do you mean you refused?’

  ‘I was in the Sussex Pad at Shoreham when the girl came up to me. But I wouldn’t have her. Carlyon came in to drink and I was afraid that he’d see me. So I said “No.” I said, “No. I won’t sleep with you. Not tonight.” And I slipped out. And I don’t know whether Carlyon saw me or not. I was afraid and I ran for miles, for miles up over the downs.’

  ‘That is no doubt another woman. There’s no need to tell the jury of all the women with whom you have consorted.’ Mr Braddock sniggered and the jury tittered. Sir Edward Parkin allowed himself a faint smile as he watched the young women in the public gallery.

  The faces in front of Andrews, the solicitors at the table, the usher, the now soundly sleeping Clerk of Arraigns, the bearded prisoners in the dock, the spectators in the gallery, the twelve hostile cow-like jurymen, were becoming rapidly an indistinct blur, one large composite face of many eyes and mouths. Only Mr Braddock’s face, red and angry, protruded very distinctly out of this mass, as he leant forward to shoot out his questions, which seemed to Andrews absurd and meaningless.

  ‘Do you still persist in saying that you landed with the prisoners on the night of February 10?’

  ‘But it’s true, I tell you.’ Andrews clenched his fists and longed to beat back that red aggressive face into the grey mists which surrounded it. Then I could sleep, he thought, and his mind dwelt with longing on the cool white sheets and warm clean blankets which had been wasted on his restless mind and body the night before.

  ‘Carry your mind back two days. Were you not in the company of a notoriously loose woman?’

  ‘No. I don’t understand. I haven’t been with a woman like that for weeks. Can’t you take my answer and have done?’ Staring at the face of Mr Braddock, as it darted back and forth, Andrews was surprised to see it apparently disintegrate under his eyes. It softened and collapsed and re-formed itself into a kind of tigerish amiability.

  ‘I don’t want to tire you. This must be a very trying experience for you.’ Mr Braddock paused, and even in his weariness Andrews smiled, remembering the weaver Bottom – ‘I will roar you as gently as any sucking dove.’

  ‘I think we are talking at cross-purposes. I am sure that you don’t wish to hinder the course of justice. Only tell the jury where you were staying two nights ago.’

  ‘At a cottage out Hassocks way.’

  ‘Not all by yourself, surely?’ The red face creased itself into a sneer, the coarse mouth with two great grave-stone teeth sniggered out loud, seeming to give a lead and a cue to laughter from gallery and jury. The usher, grinning himself, called perfunctorily for silence.

  ‘What do you mean?’ The laughter confused Andrews. It was like a mist between himself and any clear thought.

  ‘Answer the question,’ Mr Braddock snapped at him. ‘It was plain enough. Were you alone?’

  ‘No. Why? I was with –’

  ‘With whom?’

  He hesitated. He did not know her name, he realized.

  ‘A woman?’

  The word woman seemed too general and too coarse a name to describe the banner under which he now fought. A woman? He had known many women, and Elizabeth was not like one of them. She was something more remote and infinitely more desirable.

  ‘No,’ he said, and then seeing Mr Braddock’s great mouth open for another question, he grew dismayed – ‘at least …’ he said and stood confused, hopelessly barren of words.

  ‘Don’t jest with us. It must have been either a woman, a man or a child. Which was it?’

  ‘A woman,’ and before he could add some qualifying phrase he was struck by a wave of laughter from every corner of the Court. He came out of it, as though half drowned, red, gasping, blind to everything but the face of his questioner, which was already darting forward for another question.

  ‘What is her name?’

  ‘Elizabeth,’ he murmured indistinctly, but loud enough for Mr Braddock to hear. He gave it to the Court with the air of a jester. ‘Elizabeth. And what is the young woman’s surname?’

  ‘I don’t know.’

  ‘What was that the witness said?’ Sir Edward Parkin tapped the sheet of paper in front of him with his pen.

  ‘He doesn’t know her surname, my lord,’ Mr Braddock replied with a grin. Sir Edward Parkin smiled, and as though his smile gave an awaited sanction, laughter again swept the Court.

  ‘My lord,’ Mr Braddock continued, when silence had been restored, ‘the witness’s ignorance is not as astounding as it may seem. Opinion on the point differs a great deal among her neighbours.’

  Andrews leant forward and banged the edge of the box with his clenched fist. ‘What are you insinuating?’ he said.

  ‘Be quiet,’ Sir Edward Parkin turned on him, fingers poised in the act of taking snuff. He turned and smiled ingratiatingly at Mr Braddock. The case was proving more amusing than he had foreseen.

  ‘Well, my lord, I shall bring a witness to show that the girl is the daughter, probably illegitimate, of a woman called Garnet. The woman is dead and no one knows whether she ever had a husband. They had a lodger staying with them and he took over the farm when the woman died. It is a common idea in the countryside that the girl was not only the daughter of this man, but also his mistress.’

  ‘Where is the man?’

  ‘He is dead, my lord.’

  ‘Do you propose to call the girl as a witness?’

  ‘No, my lord, the information has only this moment come into my hands, and in any case the girl would not be a witness in whom a jury could place any credence. The whole story is a very sordid one.’

  ‘My God, do you know what’s beautiful?’ Andrews cried.

  ‘If you cannot keep silent,’ Sir Edward Parkin said, ‘I shall commit you for contempt of Court.’

  ‘My lord,’ Andrews appealed, and hesitated, trying to shake off the mist of weariness that clung round his brain and clogged his words.

  ‘Is there something you want to say?’

  Andrews lifted a hand to his forehead. He must find words in the mist which shrouded him, words to express the gold which suffused it from the light of candles lit in a far place behind the brain.

  ‘Say what you want to say or be silent.’

  ‘My lord, it’s not sordid,’ he muttered very low. It seemed hopeless to find words until he had slept.

  ‘Mr Braddock, the witness says that it is not sordid.’ The laughter beat upon Andrews’ head, till it felt physically bruised as though by hail.

  Mr Braddock felt himself riding to victory upon a gale of laughter.

  ‘Take your mind back to two mornings ago. We will leave out the night,’ he added with a snigger. ‘Do you remember a woman coming to the cottage?’

  ‘Yes.’

  ‘Is it true that your friend without a surname, Elizabeth, told the woman that you were her brother?’

  ‘Yes.’

  ‘Why?’

  ‘I can’t remember.’

  ‘Did she say that you’d been staying with her for a week?’

  ‘I think so. I can’t remember anything. I’m tired.’

  ‘That is all I want to ask you.’

  Can I at last sit down and sleep? Andrews wondered incredulously. His doubt was justified. Sir Henry Merriman rose.

  ‘Did you stay at the cottage for a week?’

  ‘No. Two nights. That was all.’

  ‘Think hard. Can’t you remember why she told those lies. They were to help y
ou?’

  ‘Of course. She’d never lie for herself. It was because I was afraid that the woman would talk in the town. I was afraid of Carlyon.’

  ‘Why were you afraid?’

  ‘He knew that I’d betrayed him. He was after me. He came to the cottage while I was there. But she hid me. She fooled him. She was brave like a saint. She drank out of my cup. How can he say there was anything sordid? It’s all lies they tell about her. If I wasn’t so tired I could tell you all.’

  ‘Why did she do all this for you? Were you her lover?’

  ‘No. It was just charity. I’ve never touched her, I swear it.’

  ‘Thank you. That is all.’ Andrews stood where he was, unbelieving that the end had at last come, that he had done what Elizabeth had urged him to do, that all was over now and he could sleep. He felt a hand pull at his sleeve. He stumbled down the steps to the floor of the court, still under the influence of the guiding hand, which now pulled him gently and insistently towards the door.

  As he passed the dock a voice called to him, ‘Andrews.’ He stopped and looked up. It took him a moment to focus his eyes. Then he saw that it was Tims. ‘Let me out, Andrews,’ he implored.

  There was a hostile murmur from the gallery and Andrews flushed. Anger, unreasoning and undirected, against himself, against his father, against this boy who held him for one moment from his sleep, tossed back an answer. ‘You fool, I’ve put you there.’ Then he was outside the Court.

  ‘I want to sleep,’ he said. ‘Can I go?’

  He found that he was speaking to an officer. ‘Not outside I shouldn’t,’ the man said. ‘There’s a crowd there. You ain’t too popular. Better wait till the case is over. They’ll look after you then.’

  ‘Anywhere – a chair.’ He put his hand against the wall to support himself.

  ‘There’s the witnesses’ room.’

  ‘I can’t go back there. They won’t give me any peace. Isn’t there anywhere?’

  The officer softened a little. ‘Here,’ he said, ‘you’d better sit here.’ He pointed at a bench against the wall. ‘It’s against orders,’ he added grudgingly, but already Andrews had sunk down on it and had let sleep come, instantaneous, dreamless sleep, that carried for one instant only a confusion of faces, bearded angry faces, sniggering red faces, one pale face, a gold mist and then nothing at all.

  ‘That is the case for the Crown.’ Sir Henry Merriman’s voice, filtering through the big double doors of the Court, came too softly to disturb Andrews, where he slept. To him in a state of content, of unknowing, without dreams, weeks might have passed and not hours. The voice was a clear whisper. That was all. And he had not wakened, when, a long time previously, the Court had risen for luncheon. The whispers of the witnesses had then ceased to sound in the corridor. There had been silence, a shuffle of persons rising to their feet and then, as the doors of the Court swung open, loud voices and a roar of conversation which burst like a bomb. Andrews slept on, slept on through the heavy reluctant return of feet, weighed down by a good meal eaten, slept on as the doors closed and the whispers of the witnesses began again.

  The officer in the corridor leant his ear against the door and listened, avid for any excitement to conquer boredom. He cast an eye towards Andrews in the hope of conversation, but Andrews slept. The prisoners inside were making their defence; so much the officer could gather from the broken sentences that reached him. Each man’s defence had been written out for him by his solicitor, and it was read in a toneless stumbling voice. Through the glass front of the door the officer could see the prisoners. The trial was reaching its final stages and so was the light. The Court was veiled depressingly in grey, not yet sufficiently dark to justify the lighting of the candles. The prisoners, in spite of their confidence in the jury, felt the gloom and were a little touched by fear. Each as he read from the sheet of paper in front of him felt the constraining presence of a dead man rise to refute his arguments. A man had been killed. A hundred alibis could not turn that fact into a falsehood. As though by mutual consent, bent on the sacrifice of an unwanted Jonah, they edged a little away from the half-witted youth, until he sat in a little cleared space, which in that crowded Court took on the dimensions of a desert.

  Each man’s defence was a little subtly changed. This man at the supposed time of the affray had been drinking with a friend, this man had been in bed with his wife. All would bring witnesses to prove their stories and only the perorations were similar, ‘So help me God I am innocent.’

  Four times the stumbling, mechanical stories were repeated to set the officer yawning, and then there was a change. It was the turn of Hake, the large black-bearded man who had threatened Andrews from the dock. When he rose the candles were being lighted in Court and his shadow swung across the ceiling in the manner of a gigantic bird. His voice boomed into the corridor like struck metal deeply toned.

  ‘My lord, the gentlemen of the jury have a responsibility on them today the like of which will never come their way again. Whose word are they going to take? Those gaugers, afraid of losing their jobs the whole lot of them, ours – men they’ve drunk with – that sneak’s, that Andrews with his loose woman, or ours? If they hang us and the truth comes out who’ll speak for their souls in the Day of Judgement? Who’ll defend their bodies here?’

  ‘Prisoner,’ a high petulant voice, ‘are you threatening the jury? The jury have nothing to do with the punishment. They have only to decide whether you are innocent or guilty.’

  ‘I only warn them…’

  ‘The jury will be protected in the performance of their duty. Threats do not strengthen your case.’

  ‘Are you going to hang us?’

  ‘I am anxious to be fair, but unless you proceed with your defence, you must sit down.’

  ‘My defence is the same as these others. I wasn’t there. I’ll prove it with witnesses as these will. But a man’s been killed, you’ll say, you can’t get over that. Well, I’ll tell you who killed him. He did,’ and his finger pierced across and emphasized the desert which surrounded Tims. Tims leapt to his feet. ‘You don’t mean it,’ he said, ‘you are lying. Tell them you are lying.’ He sank down again on his chair and covering his face with his hands began to cry with a peculiar moaning sound like a sick animal’s. Mingled with the booming voice it made a peculiar orchestral effect in the corridor.

  ‘I’ve heard him, I tell you, talking about it. He’s a half-witted loon, you can see that for yourself, more fitted for the asylum than for the gallows. He used to tell me many a time what he intended to do to Rexall. Rexall used to tease him in the street. You’ve heard a gauger say so himself, but there’s more evidence than that to it. I wouldn’t expect you to take a gauger’s word. But listen here – you are honest men and will bring us in innocent.’

  ‘You are not addressing the jury, you are addressing the Court.’

  ‘I’m sorry, my lord, what I mean to say,’ he leant forward over the edge of the dock towards the jury, ‘the jury will want to know what’s to happen to that Judas and his woman. Let them leave it to us, I say, let them leave it to us.’

  Before Sir Edward Parkin could speak he sat down. The officer stole a glance at Andrews. He slept on.

  The Court seemed peculiarly silent when that booming voice was still. They were waiting for the last prisoner to make his defence, but he remained seated, his face covered by his hands which shook spasmodically in time with his moans.

  ‘Richard Tims, this is the time that it becomes your duty to make your defence.’

  He made no reply, no sign even that he had heard the judge’s voice.

  ‘Mr Braddock, you represent the prisoner, do you not?’

  ‘I, my lord?’ Mr Braddock rose, sweeping his gown round him, as though to escape pollution. ‘This prisoner? No, my lord. I represent the other prisoners.’

  ‘No one ever seems capable of making out the lists correctly. You are put down for all the prisoners, Mr Braddock.’

  ‘I was never so instruc
ted, my lord.’

  ‘Which of you represents this prisoner?’

  There was no reply.

  ‘Has this prisoner had no legal advice?’ Sir Edward Parkin protested with a faint note of annoyance.

  ‘If he had wished, my lord, he could have had counsel.’

  ‘This is very trying. The case has gone on long enough as it is. I don’t want any delay. The Assize is a very full one.’

  ‘My lord,’ an elderly little man with blinking eyes rose to his feet, ‘I will represent the prisoner if you so wish it.’

  ‘Thank you, Mr Petty. Will you explain to the prisoner that he must make his defence?’

  Mr Petty stepped delicately to the edge of the Court and holding a handkerchief to his nose spoke to the boy.

  ‘It’s no use, my lord, the prisoner is not in a fit state to make his defence.’

  ‘The jury will take it that he merely asserts his innocence. Mr Braddock, will you call your witnesses?’ Sir Edward Parkin leant back and dabbed his fingers furiously in his snuff-box. He was annoyed. The case had been held up for at least two minutes. His breakfast had been a bad one, his luncheon worse and he was hungry. The trial showed no sign of reaching an end, but his hunger, far from leading to an adjournment, only confirmed his obstinacy. He would sit till midnight if necessary, but he would finish the trial.

  One after another men, women and children filed into the witness box and committed mechanical perjury. This woman was in bed with that man at the time of the murder, this man was toasting another in whisky, a child had heard its father undressing upstairs. Sir Henry Merriman shrugged his shoulders at Mr Farne. ‘They have us,’ he seemed to say. ‘That man Andrews,’ Mr Farne whispered, ‘was worse than useless.’ Only occasionally did they trouble to cross-examine. The witnesses had been too well-primed in their stories. Mr Petty, having magnanimously undertaken the task of representing a half-wit, closed his eyes and went to sleep.

  Mrs Butler scrambled up the steps of the witness box and allowed her ample breasts to flow over the edge. Yes, she had seen Andrews at a certain woman’s cottage two days previously. Yes, there had been every indication that he had slept in the place. The woman had told her that Andrews had been there for a week. Yes, the woman was a notoriously loose liver. All the neighbourhood knew it.

 
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