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Chapter 41 WHAT JUDGE?

  • For many days, meanwhile, Sir Gilbert had hovered between life and death, an_lma had watched his illness daily with profound and absorbing interest. Fo_n her deep, intuitive way she felt certain to herself that their one chanc_ow lay in Sir Gilbert's own sense of remorse and repentance. She didn't ye_now, to be sure—what Sir Gilbert himself knew—that if he recovered he would,
  • in all probability, have to sit in trial on another man for the crime he ha_imself committed. But she did feel this,—that Sir Gilbert would surely neve_tand by and let an innocent man die for his own transgression.
  • IF he recovered, that was to say. But perhaps he would not recover. Perhap_is life would flicker out by degrees in the midst of his delirium, and h_ould go to his grave unconfessed and unforgiven! Perhaps even, for his wife'_nd daughter's sake, he would shrink from revealing what Elma felt to be th_ruth, and would rest content to die, leaving Guy Waring to clear himself a_he trial, as best he might, from this hateful accusation.
  • It would be unjust. It would be criminal. Yet Sir Gilbert might do it.
  • Elma had a bad time, therefore, during all those long days, even before Gu_eturned to England. She knew his life hung by a slender thread, which Si_ilbert Gildersleeve might cut short at any moment. But her anxiety was a_othing compared to Sir Gilbert's own. That unhappy man, a moral coward a_eart, in spite of all his blustering, lay writhing in his own room now, ver_ll, and longing to be worse, longing to die, as the easiest way out of thi_mpossible difficulty. For his wife's sake, for Gwendoline's sake, it wa_etter he should die; and if only he could, he would have left Guy Waring t_is fate contentedly. His anger against Guy burnt so bright now at last tha_e would have sacrificed him willingly, provided he was not there himself t_ee and know it. What did the man mean by living on to vex him? Over and ove_gain the unhappy judge wished himself dead, and prayed to be taken. But tha_owerful frame, though severely broken by the shock, seemed hardly able t_ield up its life merely because its owner was anxious to part with it.
  • After a fortnight's severe illness, hovering all the time between hope an_ear, the doctor came one day, and looked at him hard.
  • "How is he?" Lady Gildersleeve asked, seeing him hold his breath and consider.
  • To her great surprise the doctor answered, "Better; against all hope, better."
  • And indeed Sir Gilbert was once more convalescent. A week or two abroad, i_as said, would restore him completely.
  • Then Elma had another terrible source of doubt. Would the doctors order Si_ilbert abroad so long that he would be out of England when the trial too_lace? If so, he might miss many pricks of remorse. She must take some activ_teps to arouse his conscience.
  • Sir Gilbert, himself, now recovering fast, fought hard, as well he might, fo_uch leave of absence. He was quite unfit, he said, to return to his judicia_ork so soon. Though he had said nothing about it in public before (this wa_he tenor of his talk) he was a man of profound but restrained feelings, an_e had felt, he would admit, the absence of Gwendoline's lover—especially whe_ombined with the tragic death of Colonel Kelmscott, the father, and th_emory of the unpleasantness that had once subsisted, through the Colonel'_lind obstinacy, between the two houses. This sudden news of the young man'_eturn had given him a nervous shock of which few would have believed hi_apable. "You wouldn't think to look at me," Sir Gilbert said plaintively,
  • smoothing down his bedclothes with those elephantine hands of his, "I was th_ort of man to be knocked down in this way;" and the great specialist fro_ondon, gazing at him with a smile, admitted to himself that he certainl_ould not have thought it.
  • "Oh, nonsense, my dear sir," the specialist answered, however, to all hi_ppeals. "This is the merest passing turn, I assure you. I couldn'_onscientiously say you'd be unfit for duty by the time the assizes come roun_gain. It's clear to me, on the contrary, with a physique like yours, you'l_ull yourself together in something less than no time with a week or so a_pa. Before you're due in England to take up harness again you'll be walkin_iles at a stretch over those heathery hills there. Convalescence, with a ma_ike you, is a rapid process. In a fortnight from to-day, I'll venture t_uarantee, you'll be in a fit condition to swim the Channel on your back, o_o take one of your famous fifty-mile tramps across the bogs of Dartmoor. I'l_ive you a tonic that'll set your nerves all right at once. You'll come bac_rom Spa as fresh as a daisy."
  • To Spa, accordingly, Sir Gilbert went; and from Spa came trembling letters no_nd again between Gwendoline and Elma. Gwendoline was very anxious papa shoul_et well soon, she said, for she wanted to be home before the Cape steame_rrived. "You know why, Elma." But Sir Gilbert didn't return before Guy'_rrival in England, for all that. The papers continued to give bulletins o_is health, and to speculate on the probability of his returning in time to d_he Western Circuit. Elma remained in a fever of doubt and anxiety. To her,
  • much depended now on the question of Sir Gilbert's presence or absence. For i_e was indeed to try the case, she felt certain to herself, it must work upo_is remorse and compel confession.
  • Meanwhile, preparations went on in England for Guy's approaching trial. Th_agistrates committed; the grand jury, of course, found a true bill; al_ngland rang with the strange news that the man Guy Waring, the murderer o_r. Montague Nevitt some eighteen months before, had returned at last of hi_wn free will, and had given himself up to take his trial. Gildersleeve was t_e the judge, they said; or if he were too ill, Atkins. Atkins was as sure a_ gun to hang him, people thought—that was Atkins's way—and, besides, th_vidence against the man, though in a sense circumstantial, was so absolutel_verwhelming that acquittal seemed impossible.
  • Five to two was freely offered on Change that they'd hang him.
  • The case was down for first hearing at the assizes. The night before the tria_lma Clifford, who had hurried to Devonshire with her mother to see and hea_ll—she couldn't help it, she said; she felt she MUST be present—Elma Cliffor_ooked at the evening paper with a sickening sense of suspense and anxiety. _aragraph caught her eye: "We understand that, after all, Mr. Justic_ildersleeve still finds himself too unwell to return to England for th_estern Assizes, and his place will, therefore, most probably be taken by Mr.
  • Justice Atkins. The calendar is a heavy one, and includes the interesting cas_f Mr. Guy Waring, charged with the wilful murder of Montague Nevitt, a_ambury, in Devonshire."
  • Elma laid down the paper with a swimming head. Too ill to return. She wasn'_t all surprised at it. It was almost more than human nature could stand, fo_ man to sit as judge over another to investigate the details of the crime h_ad himself committed. But the suggestion of his absence ruined her peace o_ind. She couldn't sleep that night. She felt sure now there was no hope left.
  • Guy would almost certainly be convicted of murder.
  • Next morning she took her seat in court, with her mother and Cyril, as soon a_he assize hall was opened to the public. But her cheek was very pale, and he_yes were weary. Places had been assigned them by the courtesy of th_uthorities, as persons interested in the case; and Elma looked eagerl_owards the door in the corner, by which, as the usher told her, the judge wa_o enter. There was a long interval, and the usual unseemly turmoil o_aughing and talking went on among the spectators in the well below. Some o_hem had opera-glasses and stared about them freely. Others quizzed th_ounsel, the officers, and the witnesses. Then a hush came over them, and th_oor opened. Cyril was merely aware of the usual formalities and of a judicia_ig making its way, with slow dignity, to the vacant bench. But Elma leane_orward in a tumult of feeling. Her face all at once turned scarlet wit_xcitement.
  • "What's the matter, darling?" her mother asked, in a sympathetic tone,
  • noticing that something had profoundly stirred her.
  • And Elma answered with bated breath, in almost inarticulate tones, "Don't yo_ee? Don't you see, mother? Just look at the judge! It's himself! It's Si_ilbert!"
  • And so indeed it was. Against all hope, he had come over. At the very las_oment a telegram had been handed to the convalescent at Spa:
  • > "Fallen from my horse. A nasty tumble. Sustained severe internal injuries.
  • Impossible to go the Western Circuit, Relieve me if you can. Wir_eply,—ATKINS."
  • Sir Gilbert, as he received it, had just come in from a long ride across th_ild moors that stretch away from Spa towards Han, and looked the picture o_ealth, robust and fresh and ruddy. He glowed with bodily vigour; no suspens_ould kill him. Refusal under such circumstances was clearly impossible. H_aw he must go, or resign his post at once. So, with an agitated heart, h_ired acquiescence, took the next train to—Brussels and Calais, and caught th_over boat just in time for acceptance. And now he was there to try Guy Warin_or the murder of the man he himself had killed in The Tangle at Mambury.