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A Maori Maid

Chapter XLII

page 387

Chapter XLII.

Mrs. Anderson was ill. Her nerves were shattered, she was prostrate. She remained at Te Henga, and sat, neither crying nor sighing, but drumming, drumming with her fingers on the padded arm of her big chair, waiting for the result of the trial.

John Anderson, too, was ill—very ill Far more so than his wife. He had returned to Te Henga to comfort her, and she made it plain that she wished him away. He set out for Wellington. He wired to Ngaia, and she met him, and he was installed in their house in the bedroom which she had from the day of her return induced him to regard as his own.

She tried to comfort and to help him in his trouble, and she only partially succeeded. The wound was too deep ever to heal. Grief and agony of mind had done their work, and her old friend was swiftly passing beyond all human aid.

John Anderson was dying. The shock of Cyril's disgrace had finally shattered the broken constitution.

Nevertheless, he managed to see Cyril, and he told him that the very best counsel had been retained to defend him. No effort whatever would be spared. What further happened at that meeting between Cyril and John Anderson not even Ngaia ever learnt.

It was almost the last, almost the bitterest of the experiences of his broken life.

The trial itself was a sensation, a cause célèbre.

The two prisoners were tried together. They stood page 388in the dock side by side. Cyril was dressed immaculately. His cowardice, for the time being, developed into bravado. He was indifferent, he was confident; and he scarcely so much as recognised his companion, his tool, his victim.

Clark was a strange contrast. He was dressed in black, in his oft worn Sunday suit. There was no confidence, no bravado in his demeanour. His head was bowed, he scarcely ever raised his eyes. His shame, the thought of his wife and children, and the memory of years and years of honest hard-working toil weighed upon him and crushed him.

As a matter of fact, only a small share of the ill-gotten gains had ever come to him. There was now nothing left except a tiny portion of his savings. With them his wife had retained a young lawyer. It was the best they could afford to do.

Cyril's counsel was a great man, clever and eloquent. His defence was magnificent. Clearly, he contended, if Cyril had done wrong Clark was mostly to blame. Clark's advocate used the opposite argument.

Their relative guilt was after all a matter for the judge. As far as the jury was concerned both prisoners were guilty. Within half an hour of having retired they were agreed upon that

Cyril Anderson was a convict, a felon.

The judge proceeded to pass sentence on the two prisoners with appropriate remarks.

He coincided with the view put forward by Cyril's counsel. Clearly the old man was to blame; much to blame, because it showed such base ingratitude. To have been thirty-three years in a firm (His Honour forgot the exact salary) and then to rob bis masters, was utterly indefensible. He was of course sorry for the wife and family, but he had (as judges in severe moments generally do have) a duty to perform to Society. He must make an example. As for Cyril, he page 389felt loth to class him as a criminal. He had been weak. He had fallen into bad company and had doubtless been led on and on. It ought to be a severe lesson to him, a warning to turn over a new leaf. He had his life before him, and he should realise that evil companions, such as Clark, inevitably led men to crime. The sentence of the Court was ten years' penal servitude with hard labour in the case of the elder prisoner, and three years' penal servitude with hard labour in the case of the younger.

The old man, as he heard his awful sentence, struggled, lest he fainted or gave way. Only one or two saw the tears well into his eyes and slowly trickle down and fall.

Attention was chiefly directed towards Cyril, who shrieked out, and blubbered, and cried. Sobbing and weeping he was assisted out of the dock by the warders, the old man being ordered and pushed down the narrow stairs in front.

Such is Justice.

The scales in her hand may be truly made and weigh to a nicety. The sword may be sharp, the right arm strong. But the sooner the bandage is removed from her eyes the better.

She will cease to trust only to her ears, and to measure men's natures by their names and lineage and education.

She will see and seeing know a blackguard, whether a prince or a pauper.