The Ends of Justice - Fred M. White - ebook

The Ends of Justice ebook

Fred M White

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George Cathcart hostage to circumstances. Not the first day he dreams to horror realistic dreams. He was charged with conspiracy with Seth Powell, who died under mysterious circumstances. George Cathcar was confident in the long term of hard labor. Is he at fault? May be.

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Liczba stron: 334

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Contents

I. His Lordship Is Indisposed

II. The Evening After

III. Delilah!

IV. “I Am Innocent”

V. The Man With The Tarry Thumbs

VI. The Click Of The Typewriter

VII. The Wanderer Returns

VIII. A Surprise For The Prosecution

IX. In Favor Of The Prisoner

X. Mostyn Has A Visitor

XI. The Empty Chamber

XII. The Worm Turns

XIII. More Telegrams Than One

XIV. Remorse

XV. Found!

XVI. A Friend In Need

XVII. A Dramatic Entrance

XVIII. Mostyn Is Alarmed

XIX. “The Queen Of The Mist”

XX. Powell Intervenes

XXI. Renton Takes The Risk

XXII. Danger

XXIII. What Did He Know?

XXIV. Madness

XXV. The Interrupted Feast

XXVI. A Waiting Game

XXVII. A Perilous Errand

XXVIII. The Flask Of Burgundy

XXIX. On The Verge

XXX. In The Net

XXXI. Drawing Closer

XXXII. On The Lone Star

XXXIII. By The Throat

XXXIV. On The Flat Sands

XXXV. An Open Verdict

I. HIS LORDSHIP IS INDISPOSED

It was nothing but a dream. He would wake up presently, with the heaving deck under his feet and the salt of the sea pungent in his nostrils. Meanwhile the dream was horribly realistic; so were the prison bars, the acrid smell of fresh whitewash, the tramp of heavy feet in the clanging corridors, the rattle of keys in distant locks.

“My God!” George Cathcart cried. “I shall go mad. I shall–”

He paused, overcome with the crushing burden of it all. He paced up and down the narrow cell, backwards and forwards, restlessly, like a tiger in a cage, his magnificent chest heaving like that of a distressed runner.

A criminal? Well, perhaps. But there was nothing criminal about the clear-cut brown face, nothing furtive in those clear, blue eyes. And yet, unless some miracle happened, George Cathcart stood face to face with the certainty of a long term of penal servitude. A victim of circumstances, the tool and scapegoat of rascals who walked unscathed in the broad light of day. One moment it seemed impossible that he could be convicted, yet another moment and the damning evidence on which he had been committed for trial caused him to tremble with something worse than fear.

In the face of that evidence, who would believe his story? He might as well stand up in court and denounce the learned judge who tried him, as attack the name of those who had brought him to this pass.

Cathcart flung himself down at length, utterly worn out and exhausted. He turned to his breakfast, and then away again with a loathing and disgust. A foggy November sun struggled through the narrow window; outside, in the street beyond, some boys were squabbling over a game of marbles. The little assize town of Lewton took but faint interest in the legal function annually held there. Lewton ‘gaol’ was little more than a lock-up. The court accommodation was of the vilest, and loud were the complaints of Bench and Bar that the whole assize had not been transported to Beachmouth years before. It was all the same to Cathcart. On the whole, he could hide his shame better there.

Cathcart could hear the sounds of bustle and pomp outside. He heard the judge’s carriage drive up presently; he could catch the thud of dogged, patient footsteps of witnesses as they shuffled up and down the pavement outside. Then the door of the cell opened, and the warder in charge came in. Lewton gaol was not of sufficient importance to boast of a governor. Samuel Gem nodded to the prisoner.

“Your case will be called next,” he said. “If you want to see a lawyer–”

“I want to see nothing.” George replied doggedly. “When all the powers of hell are allied against me, what does one paltry servant of the devil matter?”

“Going to plead guilty, eh?”

“Going to do nothing of the sort. But I’m not going to waste the little money I have on lawyers.”

Gem fidgeted pompously about the cell. He was a little man, with a distinctly military manner, and a large idea of his own importance. A lady-killer, too, in his own small way, and impressionable so far as the other sex was concerned. Beyond a love for being mistaken for a commissioned officer, Samuel Gem had one rosy dream. That was to save one thousand pounds and take a place in the country, where he could grow flowers and fruit. But this weakness was known to few.

“I suppose you’ve got friends some where,” he suggested.

“Ay, I have,” George said bitterly. “But I’m not going to let them know of the disgrace that has befallen me. There were one or two men who were with me at Oxford, and there is a girl who lives not two miles from here; but that’s my business.”

A couple of hours dragged slowly away before the cell door opened again. George noticed how thick the fog lay in the corridor. Out of the gloom the two stalwart policemen came clanking imperiously.

“Prisoner, you’re wanted,” one of them said curtly.

George nodded defiantly. He hoped that these men could not hear how wildly his heart was beating. With a proud face Cathcart marched between the two men in blue, he passed through an old nail-studded door into a kind of deep brown well, and was immediately conscious that three hundred pairs of eyes were turned upon him. Those glances stung like whip lashes; they seemed to fall on Cathcart’s heart, and leave it bare and bleeding. In a dazed kind of way he stumbled into the dock, and stood there trembling. He clutched the rail before him until the stout oak creaked, and then the knowledge that his soul was free from crime came back to him, and he took in the whole court with clear and steady gaze.

He saw a group of vagrant loungers in the gallery, half-hidden in the gloom, and yet eager to follow the story of a crime. Under the dock, in the well of the court, was the long solicitors’ table, and behind that a circular bench and table for the use and benefit of the bar. Some of the bewigged juniors were so close that Cathcart could have snatched the horsehair from the heads of several had he been so disposed.

Across the other side of the hall was a weird old oak four-poster kind of arrangement, under which the commissioner sat. For the moment the judicial throne was deserted. Presently there was a movement and flutter amongst the bar, the rep curtains were drawn back, and as Sir Cyril Bath came in Cathcart glanced up at him listlessly and then down again. It seemed to him that he had seen that clear-cut, incisive face before, only the heavy grey wig and gold-rimmed spectacles made a difference. His mind went wandering off vaguely. He was at sea again, with the rolling deck swaying under his feet...

“Prisoner at the bar! Prisoner at the bar!”

A policeman shook Cathcart roughly. He murmured some vague, hoarse apology under his breath. The Clerk of Sessions was reading the long indictment with level monotony.

“Prisoner at the bar! You are charged inasmuch as that you did, between the 17th and the 19th of September last, conspire with one Seth Powell, since deceased, to cast away the yacht Lone Star on the high seas. And, furthermore–”

Cathcart ceased to listen. He had heard that jargon till he was sick to death of it. He had conspired to cast away the Lone Star, so said the prosecution, for the sake of the heavy insurance, in connection with one Seth Powell, who had since committed suicide. And the deadly thing was that he really had cast away the Lone Star by which catastrophe no lives had been lost, so that only by good luck did he escape the capital charge. And how could he prove that he had been made the victim of a gang of the most infamous rascals who ever sent a coffin ship to her doom for the sake of her heavy insurance?

“Do you plead guilty, or not guilty?”

Cathcart came to himself again with a start. He drew himself up, but glanced round the gloomy court proudly. He looked with blue eyes into the face of the judge.

“Not guilty,” he cried. His voice rang in the brown rafters. He seemed to rivet Sir Cyril Bath with his steely gaze. “Not guilty, your lordship, if I stand here–”

George Cathcart said no more. Just for the moment he might have been the judge and the keen-faced man in the wig the prisoner. With a queer, startled cry, the great man pitched forward, he swayed from side to side of his judicial throne. He would have fallen it the associate by his side had not caught him. The strange white pallor of his face was a grotesque contrast to his grey wig. His queer, tremulous cry still rang in the ears of all present.

A jangled hubbub followed. Obsequious ushers came charging in with glasses of water. The prisoner was forgotten for the moment. He had quite forgotten his own parlous state. With a curious feeling he watched that huddled heap of silk and ermine and horsehair, till he saw it struggle upwards into the semblance of a man.

“I’m all right now,” came a hoarse whisper that echoed round the rigidly still court-house. “A heart spasm. Please go back to your places.”

The ghastly grey of the face gave way to a healthier hue, but Cathcart did not fail to note that Sir Cyril lay back with his features quite hidden throughout the morning. The cool, judicial air came back presently, gradually the incident was forgotten. But not one word did Sir Cyril utter as the prosecution proceeded.

The case was damning enough; it was black as Erebus from the first. One or two witnesses were obviously lying, but there were other witnesses who made a telling story against the prisoner. He was startled to find what a deal they knew of his career. The production of his banking account of itself almost proved the case for the prosecution.

Well, it didn’t matter. The court was getting hot and stuffy, and Cathcart was nodding, dazed, and tired, and worn out with want of sleep. Moreover, there was no chance of the case being finished to-day, so that the nervous tension was not so great as it would be later on.

Cathcart was dreaming of many things. He wondered why those idle young barristers could remain in court when they might have been much more healthily employed outside. Some of them assumed to be busy–one especially, right under the dock, who was making notes in a dashing handwriting on sheets of paper, and then tearing them up again. He had a couple of big books before him that effectually protected his literary labors from the curious gaze of his next-door neighbor. He was a brown-faced young man, with filaments of tar on his well-shaped hands. An enthusiastic yachts man evidently, a man who could sail his own boat. Cathcart was quite interested in the brown-faced man.

The latter was making notes again. Cathcart glanced down curiously. He could see the words quite plainly. He bit his lip to keep back the cry that knocked hard at his lips for exit.

“Keep your heart up, Cathcart: fine weather is coming. If you’ve got that, give a quiet sigh–I shall hear you.”

Cathcart sighed gently in a dazed kind of way. He saw a quick jerk of the sleek, close-cropped head below, and then the slip of paper was torn into the most minute fragments. Cathcart had forgotten all about his perilous position for the moment; he heard not the voice or the witness, or the mouthing questions of the eminent K.C. who represented the Crown. His whole soul was absorbed in the contemplation of the scribe below him, who was busy with his pen again. A moment later and he was reading with breathless interest once more:

“A stout heart and do exactly what you are told. You are an honorable man, and I can trust you. At midnight you will stand outside Lewton gaol a free man. Wait there and do as you are told, or you may get a girl into serious trouble.”

The paper was destroyed again. There was a pause for a moment, and then on a fresh sheet the strange ally wrote two words. They were the name of a girl–the pretty name of Russet Ray.

“My God!” Cathcart thought. “My own dear Russet. I am losing my senses.”

But he wasn’t. Far from it. The name disappeared, and more writing followed.

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