The Man Within, p.15Graham Greene
‘What the neighbourhood says is not evidence.’
‘No, my lord, but what my eyes have seen is evidence.’
Sir Henry Merriman’s voice stabbed itself into the corridor, sharp and clear as an icicle. ‘Did you hear this woman call the man Andrews her brother?’
‘Was that true?’
‘No, of course it weren’t true. They didn’t take me in, I can tell you.’ Her hand unerringly sought the thin strands of gold in her hair and she stroked them lovingly. ‘I know what it is to love,’ she said in her sweet, damp voice. ‘I could tell the love light in ’is eyes.’
‘What does the woman mean?’
‘She means, my lord,’ Mr Braddock explained with unction, ‘that the man Andrews appeared to be in love with the woman.’
‘How on earth could she tell that?’
‘A woman’s intuition, m’ lord.’ Mrs Butler’s hand stroked one capacious breast. ‘And I can tell you something else, m’ lord. Only one bed had been slept in.’
‘If the woman lied with regard to her relationship with Andrews, have you any reason for believing her other statement that he had been with her for a week? I suggest that he had arrived only the night before.’
‘Well, I don’t know anything, sir. But ’e must ’ave made quick time with ’er mustn’t ’e?’ Mrs Butler leered ingratiatingly at Sir Edward Parkin. ‘Men are very shy, my lord. I’ve known many in my time, my lord, and I speak with conviction.’
Sir Edward Parkin turned away his face, screwed up a little as though he suffered from nausea. ‘Have you finished with this good woman, Sir Henry?’
‘Yes, my lord.’
Mr Braddock rose. ‘That, my lord, is the case of the defence.’
‘Have you any witnesses to call, Mr Petty?’
‘No, my lord.’
‘Gentlemen of the jury, it is growing late, but by the law of England I am not allowed to discharge you until the case is finished. I am obliged to keep you together, though, no doubt, proper accommodation will be afforded you. But I am for myself perfectly willing to go on to finish the case before we separate. I have been accustomed to bear fatigue of this kind and am willing to bear it. The foreman will consult with his brethren and collect their wishes.’
There was a brief nodding of heads and the foreman intimated that they wished to finish the case. Sir Edward Parkin leant back in his seat, took a liberal helping of snuff, smoothed his white hands with some complacency and began his summing up. The officer with an impatient sigh removed his ear from the door. He had in past Assizes experienced the bitter boredom of Mr Justice Parkin’s meticulous care and accuracy. Only occasionally did he put his ear to the door to gain some indication of the progress of the judge’s charge.
‘If you accept the evidence of the revenue officers that these men landed with a cargo on the night of February 10, and that in a fight which ensued Rexall was killed, it is unnecessary to fix the guilt of firing the shot on any one man. By the law of England they are all equally guilty of murder. The prisoners, in answer to the charge, have returned a complete denial and five of the prisoners have brought evidence to show that they were in a different place when the fight, described by the officers of the Crown, took place. Gentlemen, with regard to the credibility of the prisoners’ witnesses I would have you bear in mind …
‘The evidence for the prosecution rests not on the bare word of the officers alone. One of the prisoners’ companions, on whose information the officers are said to have acted, appeared in the witness box. You must decide for yourselves upon his credibility, but I would point out that his story is similar in every point to that given by the officers…
‘There remains, gentlemen, the body, and here an unexpected line has been taken by five of the prisoners. They have accused one of their number of having committed the murder as a climax to a series of quarrels with the officer Rexall. They have adopted part of the evidence of the prosecution in their own defence. Medical evidence leaves no doubt of the cause of Rexall’s death, and the bullet found in his body is similar to those in the possession of these men. No evidence has been brought by this prisoner in his defence, but until a late stage of the trial he was unrepresented by counsel, and you can judge for yourself of his mental state. I would point out to you that it is for the prosecution to prove a case of guilt. The prisoners’ statements are not evidence, and the prosecution have not attempted to prove the man Tims guilty alone. He and his companions in this respect must be judged together…
‘You are not concerned with the past, and the evidence of the witness Andrews dealing with the life of crime lived on the ship Good Chance must not be taken into consideration. You are not to try the prisoners on their bad characters, nor are you to try them on the good characters which have been given to them by certain witnesses for the defence – you are to try whether they be guilty of the crime with which they are charged. It has been stated that they are good fathers, good husbands, good sons, but if they were angels and if the evidence as to the crime were clear and satisfactory, it would be your duty to return a verdict accordingly…
‘An ill-advised attempt has been made by one of the prisoners to influence your verdict by threats. I can promise you, gentlemen, that whatever your verdict you will have the full protection of the law…’
The officer drooped like an undignified and top heavy flower. The candles in the Court were burning low in their sockets, but Mr Justice Parkin, with the stage all his own, talked on…
Through Andrews’ sleep came first a hum of talk, then a distant burst of cheering. He opened his eyes. Through a window he could see that it was dark. Groups of talking people passed him and paid him no attention. The door of the Court stood open. He sat up and cleared sleep from his eyes with the back of a hand. Sir Henry Merriman and Mr Farne came from the Court. Mr Farne was talking with gentle insistence, his hand on the older man’s arm. ‘We shall never put down smuggling in the Courts,’ Mr Farne said. ‘There is only one way – to remove the duty from spirits.’
Sir Henry Merriman stared at the ground. ‘No,’ he said, ‘I am growing old. I must retire and give room for younger men. You, Farne.’
‘That is nonsense,’ Mr Farne said. ‘No man could have made that jury convict.’
Andrews slowly rose to his feet. ‘Do you mean to say,’ he said, ‘that these men are acquitted?’
Mr Farne turned. ‘Yes,’ he said shortly. ‘Listen. The whole town’s cheering them.’
‘Don’t go,’ Andrews implored. ‘Tell me what I am to do. Have they been released?’ Mr Farne nodded.
‘You’ve cheated me,’ Andrews cried. ‘You got me to give evidence and now – don’t you understand that you’ve let them loose on me?’
Sir Henry raised eyes that seemed blurred with weariness. ‘I have already promised you,’ he said, ‘that you shall be protected as long as you stay in this town. I should advise you to leave for London, however, as soon as you can. I admit that certain threats were made against you. Give Sussex a wide berth and you will be safe.’
‘How can I get to London? I have no money.’
‘Come to me tomorrow,’ Sir Henry said. ‘You shall be given money.’ He turned his back on Andrews. ‘Farne,’ he said, ‘I am tired. I shall go to bed now. Listen. Isn’t it rather bitter, that cheering? If we had won there would have been less enthusiasm. You remember the Duke of Northumberland, who declared for Jane Grey – “the people press to see us, but not one saith God speed”?’
‘I won’t let you go like this,’ Andrews cried. ‘That cheering only means defeat to you. It will be death to me if I’m seen. How can I get away from here?’
‘I have given orders to the Runners,’ Sir Henry said. ‘They will see you back to the hotel. Two men will be stationed there to accompany you at any time through the town. If I were you I should catch the first coach to London in the morning.’ Mr Farne pushed Andrews on one side and the two men moved away.
Andrews turned to
‘And why should they care for an informer like you? I’m sure I don’t,’ he beamed at Andrews genially. ‘I’d let your friends get you, but orders is orders. Come this way.’
Escorted by way of a back door and a succession of dirty lanes Andrews reached the White Hart through the stables.
ANDREWS STOOD IN THE room where the previous night he had held Sir Henry’s mistress in his arms and watched with tired curiosity one star. He held in his hand a note which a winking waiter had given him. It was from Lucy and read ‘Henry has gone to bed. You can come to me. You know my room.’ He had done what Elizabeth desired him to do, and in spite of the note he held, he told himself that it was for Elizabeth’s sake that he had done it. Didn’t I, he thought, renounce this morning with perfect sincerity this very reward? I did what I did then for Elizabeth and why should I not take any small benefits which come after? I had no thought for this when I stood in the witness box. It was an interesting moral point.
Carlyon now could come and go where he liked. Nothing, Andrews thought with apprehension, could prevent him strolling that very evening into the White Hart. It was so exactly the kind of thing for Carlyon to do that Andrews looked with a sudden start behind him. The door was shut. He longed to bolt it. As for this letter it could not be denied that he would be safer that night in Lucy’s bed than in his own. That was a reason which no one could deny. It would be to save myself, he told the star to which he instinctively addressed words meant for Elizabeth, for no other reason. I do not love her. Never will I love anyone but you. I swear to that. If a man loves one, he cannot help still lusting after others. But it was love not lust, I promise, that strengthened me this morning.
After all, he said to the star, I shall never see you again, and must I therefore never know another woman? I cannot come to you, for they will be watching for me there, and you do not love me. I should be a fool . . . and he stopped speaking to himself, struck by the astonishing knowledge of how deeply his heart longed to be a fool. Reason, reason, reason. I must cling to that, he thought. Reason and his body seemed to act together in a somewhat evil partnership. In fear of his own heart he began to play on fear for his own safety, and that fear seemed strangely less strong than was its wont. And then he turned to the thought of Lucy and the feel of her body pressed to him and her close promises the night before. He imagined her naked and in disgusting attitudes and tried to whip his body into a blind lust which would forget for a time at least the dictates of his heart. Yet strangely even his lust seemed less strong. What have you done to me? he cried despairingly at the lonely star.
It was then that he heard someone twist cautiously the handle of the door. He forgot star, Elizabeth, Lucy, everything but his own safety. In one stride he reached the oil lamp which lit the room and turned it out. The room was still too light or seemed so to his hammering nerves from the wash of moonlight which entered at the window. It was too late to get behind the door, so Andrews pressed his back against the wall and cursed himself for being weaponless. What a sentimental fool he had been to leave his knife behind him at the cottage. Where were the two Runners, he wondered, who were supposed to guard him? Drunk in bed in all probability. He watched the door handle with fascination. It was of white marble and glimmered, touched by the crest of the moon’s wave, with deceptive distinctness. Again it twisted round with surprising silentness and then flew outwards like a thrown ball. An oil lamp stood in the passage outside and its light cast a kind of mocking halo round the head of the cockney Harry, who stood in the doorway, his face thrust forward and moving from side to side, like that of a snake.
Andrews pressed himself still harder against the wall, and Cockney Harry sidled into the room. As though he was aware that the light in the passage put him at a disadvantage he shut the door behind him. ‘Andrews,’ he whispered. His eyes were not yet used to the dark, and the silence made him uneasy. He too put his back against the wall, opposite the place where Andrews stood, as if he feared attack. Then he saw Andrews. ‘So there you are,’ he said. Andrews clenched his fists in preparation for an unexpected spring, but the smuggler saw the movement and flashed a knife warningly in the moon’s rays. ‘Stay where you are,’ he whispered, ‘unless you want to squeak to a new tune.’
‘There are Runners in this hotel,’ Andrews also lowered his voice. ‘What do you want?’
‘I’m not afraid of the Runners now,’ the man said. ‘But look ’ere,’ he added plaintively, ‘why d’you want to quarrel? I’m ’ere to do you a service, strite I am.’
‘To do me a service?’ Andrews repeated. ‘Do you forget who I am?’
‘Oh, I don’t forget ’ow you squeaked on us, but one good turn deserves another. You didn’t squeak on me this afternoon, and you might ’ave done easy.’
‘It wasn’t for love of that face of yours,’ Andrews said. His fists remained clenched against any sudden attack.
‘You ain’t very griteful,’ Harry complained. ‘Don’t you want to ’ear my news?’
‘Of Carlyon an’ the others.’
‘No, I’ve finished with them,’ he said and added, as always with a curious aching heart, slowly, as though in an effort to overcome with finality each ache, ‘I never want to see that man again.’
‘Ah, but ’e ain’t finished with you. Nor with yer lady-bird.’
Andrews started forward. ‘What do you mean?’
‘Now keep back,’ Harry flashed his knife again, ‘What I mean is they feel they been cheated by ’er – cheated shimeful.’
‘Carlyon wouldn’t do anything to her, I know he wouldn’t.’
‘Ah, but there’s Joe. ’E says she ought to ’ave a fright, an’ Carlyon agrees to that, but ’e don’t know what Joe and ’Ake calls a fright. They are all off to give it ’er tomorrer or the next dy.’
‘You are lying, you know you are lying.’ Andrews panted a little like a dog thirsty or out of breath. ‘This is a trap to get me to go back there, so that you’ll catch me. But I won’t, I won’t go back I tell you.’
‘Why, that’s why I’m ’ere – to warn yer against goin’, in case you were thinkin’ of it. They’ll all be there. Carlyon’ll kill you as soon as look at you. Though ’Ake says as killin’s too good. ’E says they oughter ’ave some fun with you first.’
‘Well, you can tell them that I’m never going back there. It’s no use laying that trap for me.’
‘Good. Now I’ve warned yer an’ we’re quits. Next time,’ Harry spat on the floor expressively and again flashed the steel of his knife in the moonlight, ‘don’t you expect me to be friendly.’ He gave the impression of sliding across the floor. The white marble handle again flew outwards and the smuggler disappeared. Up the street the clock of St Anne’s Church beat out with irritating deliberation the half after eleven.
Like a dream the man had entered and like a dream he had gone. Why could he not have been one more degree a phantom and become a vision only? Now inevitably a turmoil was roused in the mind. Carlyon would not harm a woman, Andrews thought. It is only a trap to catch me. But then was it likely that they would plan such a trap for me, a coward? They could not expect to do anything but repel him by danger. Again he repeated to himself that she was safe, that Carlyon would see to that, but still he could not dispel from his mind the thought of Joe and Hake. Tomorrow or the next day. If he were to leave tonight he could warn her in time, and they could both escape. But that was only if it were not a trap. Perhaps even now Harry, Joe, Hake, Carlyon and the rest were preparing to meet him on the downs. And yet how good, how glorious it would be, to be coming down the hill at dawn, to wait perhaps for the first sign of smoke to show that she was awake, to tap on the door and see recognition lit in her eyes. She would have to welcome me, he thought. I have earned that, for I have done all that she told me to do. I
As his fingers tightened in perplexity he felt still in his hand Lucy’s note. Here was someone who would give him more than kind words and yet exact no sense of responsibility. All his reason commanded him to go to her, only his heart, and that hard abstract critic for once allied to his heart, opposed. I shall be safe with her tonight, he thought, and tomorrow Carlyon and the others will have gone off over the downs and the road to London will be safe. Why, if he went to Elizabeth now, he would have no money for their escape. You mustn’t be dependent on her money, reason added, striking a noble attitude. That decided him. Why, even honour forbade the dangerous course.
He passed through the dark passage and up the stairs, slowly, still a little doubtful and reluctant. In one of the rooms which now faced him Sir Henry Merriman slept. There was even a little danger, he now realized, in this course, danger of being stranded without money in this perilous Sussex. He knew which was Lucy’s room and cautiously he turned the handle and went in. He still held her note, as though a passport, in his hand.
‘Here I am,’ he said. He could not see her, but one hand stumbled on the foot of a bed.
The Man Within by Graham Greene / History & Fiction have rating 3 out of 5 / Based on18 votes