Read CHAPTER III.  THE LOGAN TRIAL AND WHAT CAME OF IT of You Never Know Your Luck‚ Complete, free online book, by Gilbert Parker, on ReadCentral.com.

What the case was in which Shiel Crozier was to give evidence is not important; what came from the giving of his testimony is all that matters; and this story would never have been written if he had not 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 something 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?”

“In Ireland.”

“What part of Ireland?”

“County Kerry.”

“What place ­what town or city or village in County Kerry?”

“In neither.”

“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 suspense 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.”

“Any title?”

“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.

“I was.”

“A legitimate son?”

Nothing in Crozier’s face showed what he felt, except his eyes, and they had a look in them which might well have made his questioner shrink.  He turned calmly to the judge.

“Your honour, does this bear upon the case?  Must I answer this legal libertine?”

At the word libertine, the judge, the whole court, and the audience started; but it was presently clear the witness meant that the questioner was abusing his legal privileges, though the people present interpreted it another way, and quite rightly.

The reply of the judge was in favour of the lawyer.  “I do not quite see the full significance of the line of defence, but I think I must allow the question,” was the judge’s gentle and reluctant reply, for he was greatly impressed by this witness, by his transparent honesty and straightforwardness.

“Were you a legitimate son of John Gathorne Crozier and his wife?” asked Burlingame.

“Yes, a legitimate son,” answered Crozier in an even voice.

“Is John Gathorne Crozier still living?”

“I said that gentleman was his designation in official documents.  I supposed that would convey the fact that he was not living, but I see you do not quickly grasp a point.”

Burlingame was stung by the laughter in the court and ventured a riposte.

“But is once a gentleman always a gentleman an infallible rule?”

“I suppose not; I did not mean to convey that; but once a rogue always a bad lawyer holds good in every country,” was Crozier’s comment in a low, quiet voice which stirred and amused the audience again.

“I must ask counsel to put questions which have some relevance even to his own line of defence,” remarked the judge sternly.  “This is not a corner grocery.”

Burlingame bowed.  He had had a facer, but he had also shown the witness to have been living under an assumed name.  That was a good start.  He hoped to add to the discredit.  He had absolutely no knowledge of Crozier’s origin and past; but he was in a position to find it out if Crozier told the truth on oath, and he was sure he would.

“Where was your domicile in the old country?” Burlingame asked.

“In County Kerry ­with a flat in London.”

“An estate in County Kerry?”

“A house and two thousand acres.”

“Is it your property still?”

“It is not.”

“You sold it?”

“No.”

“If you did not sell, how is it that you do not own it?”

“It was sold for me ­in spite of me.”

The judge smiled, the people smiled, the jury smiled.  Truly, though a life-history was being exposed with incredible slowness ­“like pulling teeth,” as the Young Doctor said ­it was being touched off with laughter.

“You were in debt?”

“Quite.”

“How did you get into debt?”

“By spending more than my income.”

If Askatoon had been proud of its legal talent in the past it had now reason for revising its opinion.  Burlingame was frittering away the effect of his inquiry by elaboration of details.  What he gained by the main startling fact he lost in the details by which the witness scored.  He asked another main question.

“Why did you leave Ireland?”

“To make money.”

“You couldn’t do it there?”

“They were too many for me over there, so I thought I’d come here,” slyly answered Crozier, and with a grave face; at which the solemn scene of a prisoner being tried for his life was shaken by a broad smiling, which in some cases became laughter haughtily suppressed by the court attendant.

“Have you made money here?”

“A little ­with expectations.”

“What was your income in Ireland?”

“It began with three thousand pounds ­”

“Fifteen thousand dollars about?”

“About that ­about a lawyer’s fee for one whisper to a client less than that.  It began with that and ended with nothing.”

“Then you escaped?”

“From creditors, lawyers, and other such?  No, I found you here.”

The judge intervened again almost harshly on the laughter of the court, with the remark that a man was being tried for his life; that ribaldry was out of place; and that, unless the course pursued by the counsel was to discredit the reliability of the character of the witness, the examination was in excess of the privilege of counsel.

“Your honour has rightly apprehended what my purpose is,” Burlingame said deprecatingly.  He then turned to Crozier again, and his voice rose as it did when he began the examination.  It was as though he was starting all over again.

“What was it compelled” (he was boldly venturing) “you to leave Ireland at last?  What was the incident which drove you out from the land where you were born ­from being the owner of two thousand acres” ­

“Partly bog,” interposed Crozier.

“ ­From being the owner of two thousand acres to becoming a kind of head-groom on a ranch?  What was the cause of your flight?”

“Flight!  I came in one of the steamers of the Company for which your firm are the agents.  Eleven days it took to come from Glasgow to Quebec.”

Again the court rippled, again the attendant intervened.

Burlingame was nonplussed this time, but he gathered himself together.

“What was the process of law which forced you to leave your own land?”

“None at all.”

“What were your debts when you left?”

“None at all.”

“How much was the last debt you paid?”

“Two thousand five hundred pounds.”

“What was its nature?”

“It was a debt of honour ­do you understand?” The subtle challenge of the voice, the sarcasm, was not lost.  Again there was a struggle on the part of the audience not to laugh outright, and so be driven from the court as had been threatened.

The judge interposed again with the remark, not very severe in tone, that the witness was not in the box to ask questions, but to answer them.  At the same time he must remind counsel that the examination must discontinue unless something more relevant immediately appeared in the evidence.

There was silence again for a moment, and even Crozier himself seemed to steel himself for a question he felt was coming.

“Are you married or single?” asked Burlingame, and he did not need to raise his voice to summon the interest of the court.

“I was married.”

One person in the audience nearly cried out.  It was Kitty Tynan.  She had never allowed herself to think of that, but even if she had, what difference could it make whether he was married or single, since he was out of her star?

“Are you not married now?”

“I do not know.”

“You mean you do not know if you have been divorced?”

“No.”

“You mean your wife is dead?”

“No.”

“What do you mean?  That you do not know whether your wife is living or dead?”

“Quite so.”

“Have you heard from her since you saw her last?”

“I had one letter.”

Kitty Tynan thought of the unopened letter in a woman’s handwriting in the green baize desk in her mother’s house.

“No more?”

“No more.”

“Are we to understand that you do not know whether your wife is living or dead?”

“I have no information that she is dead.”

“Why did you leave her?”

“I have not said that I left her.  Primarily I left Ireland.”

“Assuming that she is alive, your wife will not live with you?”

“Ah, what information have you to that effect?” The judge informed Crozier that he must not ask questions of counsel.

“Why is she not with you here?”

“As you said, I am only picking up a living here, and even the passage by your own second-class steamship line is expensive.”

The judge suppressed a smile.  He greatly liked the witness.

“Do you deny that you parted from your wife in anger?”

“When I am asked that question I will try to answer it.  Meanwhile, I do not deny what has not been put before me in the usual way.”

Here the judge sternly rebuked the counsel, who ventured upon one last question.

“Have you any children?”

“None.”

“Has your brother, who inherited, any children?”

“None that I know of.”

“Are you the heir-presumptive to the baronetcy?”

“I am.”

“Yet your wife will not live with you?”

“Call Mrs. Crozier as a witness and see.  Meanwhile, I am not upon my trial.”

He turned to the judge, who promptly called upon Burlingame to conclude his examination.

Burlingame asked two questions more.

“Why did you change your name when you came here?”

“I wanted to obliterate myself.”

“I put it to you, that what you want is to avoid the outraged law of your own country.”

“No ­I want to avoid the outrageous lawyers of yours.”

Again there was a pause in the proceedings, and on a protest from the crown attorney the judge put an end to the cross-examination with the solemn reminder that a man was being tried for his life, and that the present proceedings were a lamentable reflection on the levity of human nature ­in Askatoon.  Turning with friendly scrutiny to Crozier, he said: 

“In the early stage of his examination the witness informed the court that he had made a heavy loss through a debt of honour immediately before leaving England.  Will he say in what way he incurred the obligation?  Are we to assume that it was through gambling-card-playing, or other games of chance?”

“Through backing the wrong horse,” was Crozier’s instant reply.

“That phrase is often applied to mining or other unreal flights for fortune,” said the judge, with a dry smile.

“This was a real horse on a real flight to the winning-post,” added Crozier, with a quirk at the corner of his mouth.

“Honest contest with man or horse is no crime, but it is tragedy to stake all on the contest and lose,” was the judge’s grave and pedagogic comment.  “We shall now hear from the counsel for defence his reason for conducting his cross-examination on such unusual lines.  Latitude of this kind is only permissible if it opens up any weakness in the case against the prisoner.”

The judge thus did Burlingame a good turn as well as Crozier, by creating an atmosphere of gravity, even of tragedy, in which Burlingame could make his speech in defence of the prisoner.

Burlingame started hesitatingly, got into his stride, assembled the points of his defence with the skill of which he really was capable.  He made a strong appeal for acquittal, but if not acquittal, then a verdict of manslaughter.  He showed that the only real evidence which could convict his man of murder was that of the witness Crozier.  If he had been content to discredit evidence of the witness by an adroit but guarded misuse of the facts he had brought out regarding Crozier’s past, to emphasise the fact that he was living under an assumed name and that his bona fides was doubtful, he might have impressed the jury to some slight degree.  He could not, however, control the malice he felt, and he was smarting from Crozier’s retorts.  He had a vanity easily lacerated, and he was now too savage to abate the ferocity of his forensic attack.  He sat down, however, with a sure sense of failure.  Every orator knows when he is beating the air, even when his audience is quiet and apparently attentive.

The crown attorney was a man of the serenest method and of cold, unforensic logic.  He had a deadly precision of speech, a very remarkable memory, and a great power of organising and assembling his facts.  There was little left of Burlingame’s appeal when he sat down.  He declared that to discredit Crozier’s evidence because he chose to use another name than his own, because he was parted from his wife, because he left England practically penniless to earn an honest living ­no one had shown it was not ­was the last resort of legal desperation.  It was an indefensible thing to endeavour to create prejudice against a man because of his own evidence given with great frankness.  Not one single word of evidence had the defence brought to discredit Crozier, save by Crozier’s own word of mouth; and if Crozier had cared to commit perjury, the defence could not have proved him guilty of it.  Even if Crozier had not told the truth as it was, counsel for the defence would have found it impossible to convict him of falsehood.  But even if Crozier was a perjurer, justice demanded that his evidence should be weighed as truth from its own inherent probability and supported by surrounding facts.  In a long experience he had never seen animus against a witness so recklessly exhibited as by counsel in this case.

The judge was not quite so severe in his summing up, but he did say of Crozier that his direct replies to Burlingame’s questions, intended to prejudice him in the eyes of the community into which he had come a stranger, bore undoubted evidence of truth; for if he had chosen to say what might have saved him from the suspicions, ill or well founded, of his present fellow-citizens, he might have done so with impunity, save for the reproach of his own conscience.  On the whole, the judge summed up powerfully against the prisoner Logan, with the result that the jury were not out for more than a half-hour.  Their verdict was, guilty of murder.

In the scene which followed, Crozier dropped his head into his hand and sat immovable as the judge put on the black cap and delivered sentence.  When the prisoner left the dock, and the crowd began to disperse, satisfied that justice had been done ­save in that small circle where the M’Mahons were supreme ­Crozier rose with other witnesses to leave.  As he looked ahead of him the first face he saw was that of Kitty Tynan, and something in it startled him.  Where had he seen that look before?  Yes, he remembered.  It was when he was twenty-one and had been sent away to Algiers because he was falling in love with a farmer’s daughter.  As he drove down a lane with his father towards the railway station, those long years ago, he had seen the girl’s face looking at him from the window of a labourer’s cottage at the crossroads; and its stupefied desolation haunted him for many years, even after the girl had married and gone to live in Scotland ­that place of torment for an Irish soul.

The look in Kitty Tynan’s face reminded him of that farmer’s lass in his boyhood’s history.  He was to blame then ­was he to blame now?  Certainly not consciously, not by any intended word or act.  Now he met her eyes and smiled at her, not gaily, not gravely, but with a kind of whimsical helplessness; for she was the first to remind him that he was leaving the court-room in a different position (if not a different man) from that in which he entered it.  He had entered the court-room as James Gathorne Kerry, and he was leaving it as Shiel Crozier; and somehow James Gathorne Kerry had always been to himself a different man from Shiel Crozier, with different views, different feelings, if not different characteristics.

He saw faces turned to him, a few with intense curiosity, fewer still with a little furtiveness, some with amusement, and many with unmistakable approval; for one thing was clear, if his own evidence was correct:  he was the son of a baronet, he was heir-presumptive to a baronetcy, and he had scored off Augustus Burlingame in a way which delighted a naturally humorous people.  He noted, however, that the nod which Studd Bradley, the financier, gave him had in it an enigmatic something which puzzled him.  Surely Bradley could not be prejudiced against him because of the evidence he had given.  There was nothing criminal in living under an assumed name, which, anyhow, was his own name in three-fourths of it, and in the other part was the name of the county where he was born.

“Divils me own, I told you he was up among the dukes,” said Malachi Deely to John Sibley as they came out.  “And he’s from me own county, and I know the name well enough; an’ a damn good name it is.  The bulls of Castlegarry was famous in the south of Ireland.”

“I’ve a warm spot for him.  I was right, you see.  Backing horses ruined him,” said Sibley in reply; and he looked at Crozier admiringly.

There is the communion of saints, but nearer and dearer is the communion of sinners; for a common danger is their bond, and that is even more than a common hope.