Grey certainly didn't look happy in court next morning. Melton didn't either.
"I'm sorry I snapped at you yesterday, Harding," he said. "I'm starting to think you and I are the only sane people in this room."
Harding remembered that as far as Melton was concerned, he had nothing to do with Mrs Delafontaine's case. He remembered to assume his most innocent expression.
"You'll see," he said grimly. "She seems to have cooked up some sort of alternative perpetrator defence." He shook his head and sighed. "I'm starting to think she's doli incapax. You certainly couldn't call her rational…"
Harding knew that suggesting mental disturbance would go down like a lead balloon. Mrs Delafontaine wasn't mentally deranged and she'd already sacked Whimple for trying to suggest she was. Harding felt sick. He looked at the jury in the box and felt his throat clench. The defence was hopeless. Built on inference and conjecture. To plausibly present an alternative perpetrator, you need evidence. Or you just look like a blithering fool.
Mrs Delafontaine stood up. She looked like a ghost. She mustn't have slept at all, the rims of her eyes were swollen red. How much had she cried? But when she spoke, her voice was steady. "I wish to present a case of alternative perpetrator."
The public leaned forward curiously. This was new. This was unexpected. The jury looked puzzled.
"Yesterday, Mr Grey mocked that idea that my husband was killed just after I'd killed Miss Florence Webb by co-incidence. Well, he was right. It wasn't a co-incidence. My case, lady and gentlemen of the jury, is that General David Webb is the real father of William Delafontaine, Lord Hapscle. He killed Edward to prevent him being promoted to the job Will has now—Hapscle, I mean. Edward didn't really have an affair with Florence Webb." A shadow flickered across her face. "I killed her for nothing." Her voice caught, then she continued. "And I'm sorry, not that it helps much to say that." She paused for a moment, grief shining out of her eyes, then she returned to her notes. "General Webb forged the photograph and sent it to me, hoping that I would kill Edward. When I didn't, he did, knowing I would be accused instead of him."
The jury gaped. In the public galleries, a pin-drop could be heard.
"Remember, please, General Webb is not on trial. You don't have to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt of his guilt. Just not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt of mine."
She took a deep breath and the jury took one with her and braced itself for whatever it was going to hear next.
"Delafontaine calls His Grace Thomas Delafontaine, Duke of Wessex."
The Duke of Wessex was scowling. Harding guessed he wasn't too pleased at being publicly interrogated by a lady he had done everything he could to disassociate himself from.
"Good morning," said Mrs Delafontaine brightly.
He did not reply to this friendly greeting.
"When were you married?"
"Immediately after your marriage, where were you sent away?"
"When was your son Lord Hapscle born?"
"Are you satisfied that he is your son?"
The Duke didn't answer this question. He turned to Melton. "My Lord, are you going to allow this farce to continue? This woman has no business prying into people's private life in public." He glared round the galleries. "What are all these people doing here?"
"They've come to see justice done," said Melton. "And you are not a barrister, but a witness. You have to answer the questions, with no objections except for self-incrimination."
"I am a barrister," said Grey, grimly. "And I wish to object, My Lord, on the grounds that that question is irrelevant."
"Sadly," sighed Melton. "It is relevant."
"Why is My Lord allowing her to go through with this lunacy? She has no evidence for an alternative perpetrator, she's digging up the dirt on society's most prominent figures and attacking the dignity of His Majesty's courts."
It was a pity, thought Harding, that the people who talked the most loudly about the dignity of the courts were the ones who didn't seem able to see the dignity inherent in a correct verdict. "This lunacy" was the prisoner's defence, which she was legally entitled to conduct.
Melton glared at him. "You are attacking the dignity of His Majesty's courts by questioning my judgement, and if you continue, I will try you for contempt. You and Mrs Delafontaine are both as bad as each other." He turned back to the Duke. "Answer the question!"
"Speculation!" shouted Grey.
"Mr Grey! You are a barrister, not a jack-in-the-box. If you bounce around shouting your head off I'll try you for contempt."
"I'm sorry, My Lord. What I mean is, My Lord, I must object to that question as it invites the witness to speculate."
"Over-ruled," said Melton firmly. "A man doesn't have to speculate about his own mental state. He knows." He turned back to the Duke. "Answer the question or I'll charge you with contempt."
"Reasonably…" said the Duke, going red in the face and running his finger under his collar.
""Reasonably" isn't how it sounded to me last night."
"My Lord!" Grey bounced up out of his chair. "Hearsay and she's leading the witness!"
"Quite right," said Melton. He sounded somewhat relieved. He wasn't enjoying Mrs Delafontaine's antics either.
Mrs Delafontaine briefly opened her mouth, swallowed and smiled sweetly. "Very well, My Lord." She turned to the Duke. "Thank you, that's all for in-chief."
"No cross-examination," said Grey.
Harding suspected that Grey had chosen a tactic of sabotaging Mrs Delafontaine at every opportunity and only cross-examining when he felt it could help that tactic.
"Delafontaine calls Her Grace Annabelle Delafontaine, Duchess of Wessex."
The Duchess glared her most devastating icy glare. Several jurors flinched before it.
"Did you have an affair with General Webb while your husband was away in Egypt?"
The Duchess turned white, then scarlet, then grey. She couldn't deny it, because she had sworn on the Bible to tell the truth, but she couldn't admit, in front of a full public gallery and serried ranks of press, that she had indeed had an affair. Harding wondered if she would explode. Instead, she swung round to Melton with blazing eyes, silently demanding that he make this stop.
Grey lost no time. "My Lord, I must object, that's a prejudicial question."
"My Lord," said Mrs Delafontaine. "It's crucial for my defence."
Melton mopped his brow. "Mrs Delafontaine, if your entire defence is going to be based on scurrilous speculation, then I can't allow it. An alternative perpetrator defence needs something beyond cobbling together fairy stories from people's past misbehaviour. That's not evidence."
"But this is evidence, My Lord! It's a motive."
"Very well, Mrs Delafontaine."
"Thank you, My Lord." She turned to the Duchess. "Did you have an affair?"
"Yes." The Duchess glared venom at Mrs Delafontaine.
"Do you doubt Lord Hapscle's paternity?"
"My Lord-" began Grey.
"Mrs Delafontaine," said Grey. "This is getting ridiculous." But he did not tell the Duchess not to answer the question.
The Duchess glared at Mrs Delafontaine. "I don't see what business it is of yours."
"It's my business because it's relevant to my defence."
The Duchess glared harder and Mrs Delafontaine stared back coldly.
"Possibly," choked out the Duchess eventually.
"Thank you, Your Grace, that will be all," Mrs Delafontaine smiled kindly.
The Duchess did not smile back.
"No cross-examination," snapped Grey. "Because her questions are ridiculous!"
Harding peered round the gallery. The public was restless. Even by the standards of a murder trial, they knew they were seeing something unusual and didn't know what to make of it all.
The jurors didn't seem sure how to take it. They didn't seem to have come down either firmly in favour of or firmly against the accused yet. The elderly gentleman with the top hat was looking at Mrs Delafontaine as if she had started tap-dancing but he didn't look utterly contemptuous, which was better than Harding had hoped. He had expected them to be laughing by now. They still might, of course. It occurred to him that if the jury laughed this whole defence out of court, the alternative perpetrator strategy could be the worst tactic seen at the Bailey in decades. But that couldn't be helped. Speak the truth and shame the Devil.
"Delafontaine calls William Delafontaine, Lord Hapscle!"
"Mrs Delafontaine, I hope we're going to see some actual evidence, now, rather than this mess of innuendo and character assassination. From a professional barrister, such a defence would not be supported by law and as it is, you're pushing it."
Mrs Delafontaine turned to Melton with a bright smile. "Don't worry, My Lord, this witness will be much more co-operative." She turned to Hapscle. "Hi."
"Thank you for coming."
He smiled. "Pleasure."
"This is all very nice," said Melton. "But we get on?"
"Did you hear the Duke of Wessex expressing doubts about your paternity last night?"
"My Lord, hearsay," said Grey.
"Objection sustained," said Melton. "He can't repeat what His Grace said."
"Sod off," said Hapscle. "She's got a legal right to a defence."
"Mind your language, young man, or I'll try you for contempt."
"I beg your pardon. I meant, I respectfully suggest that My Lord sods off."
"Will." Mrs Delafontaine frowned. "Be patient with the gentleman. He's had a long day, just like we have." She turned to Melton. "I'm sorry, My Lord."
Melton's expression softened slightly.
Hapscle had a feeling that Mrs Delafontaine's good manners could be her best hope for evading the gallows.
She returned her attention to her witness. "Were you friendly with General Webb?"
"My Lord! She's leading!"
"Rephrase, Mrs Delafontaine," said Melton wearily.
"What was your relationship with General Webb?"
"We were friendly. He invited me to Caerlarvel a couple of times."
"Until the Friday before he was killed, they'd never met."
"You were recently promoted to captain?"
"My Lord! I must object! Leading the witness."
"Shut up, Grey! You're as bad as she is! The lady has to ask questions." Melton looked as if he might begin tearing his hair out, but there was a resigned air to him, as if in his heart of hearts he had already given up on order in the court. This was what he had expected all along. Self-representation always descends into absolute chaos.
"Yes," said Hapscle, as soon as he could make himself heard.
"Is it true that Edward was also being considered for this post?"
"Hearsay!" Remembering what Melton had said about jack-in-the-boxes he mumbled, "I mean, My Lord, I must object. That's hearsay!".
"Mrs Delafontaine, I do have to agree with him."
"My Lord, with respect, it's common knowledge." Mrs Delafontaine smiled her most charming smile.
"Very well." Melton sighed and rolled his eyes.
Mrs Delafontaine turned her charming smile to Hapscle. "Do you think I did it, Will?"
Hapscle smiled back. He also had a very charming smile, which Harding hoped the jury would find similarly charming. "No."
"Have you ever known me lie?"
"Thank you. That's all for in-chief."
"No cross-examination," sighed Grey. "I maintain," he muttered—but deliberately loud enough for the jury to hear—"that this isn't a legal defence".
"Delafontaine calls General David Webb!"
General Webb regarded Mrs Delafontaine with an expression of cold contempt. The jury might think it was hatred of the woman who'd killed his niece, but Harding could see his eyes and it was the glare of the proud man to one who questions his superiority. The perfect murder hadn't come off.
"Did you have an affair with the Duchess of Wessex in 1907?"
"Leading!" howled Grey, not even bothering with a "My Lord".
"Agreed. Mrs Delafontaine, re-phrase."
Mrs Delafontaine showed no frustration or irritation. She simply smiled politely at Melton and obediently re-phrased. "What was your relationship with the Duchess of Wessex in 1907?"
"I was helping her to manage her affairs in her husband's absence." Coldly.
"Did you have an affair?" In the same calm, friendly tone as she always used.
Mrs Delafontaine turned to Melton. "My Lord, may I have permission to treat the witness as hostile?"
Excellent, thought Harding. Now she could ask leading questions. Now they could get somewhere.
"You can only treat the witness as hostile if he's lying."
"I believe he's being evasive, My Lord."
Melton considered. "Very well," he sighed.
Mrs Delafontaine smiled. "Thank you." She turned to Webb. "Did you have an affair?"
"Prejudicial!" wailed Grey.
"Mr Grey! Stop impersonating a howler monkey! When you wish to address me, say "My Lord"."
Webb waited a full ten seconds, glaring at Melton and obviously expecting him to rescue him from this situation. No rescue came.
He turned to Mrs Delafontaine. "No."
"You're lying!" Her voice was hard and cold and absolutely confident, and her eyes were like stone.
"Prove it." Webb was just as calm.
Mrs Delafontaine remained perfectly calm and continued.
"Is Hapscle your son?"
"This is ridiculous!" muttered Grey.
Still, Mrs Delafontaine showed not a sign of bad temper.
"Did you know about the fact that an important promotion would go to either Will or Edward? Hapscle or Edward, I mean."
"Did you fake that photograph of Edward in bed with Miss Webb?"
"No." He didn't take his eyes off her face. Smug. Challenging. Prove it.
Harding could have burst into tears. Webb had won, and knew he'd won. Mrs Delafontaine would be convicted.
"Did you send the photograph to me?"
Still Mrs Delafontaine showed no sign of frustration or despair. She continued to ask her questions just as quietly and steadily as Webb lied back to her. Harding's heart swelled with pride for her.
"Did you kill my husband?"
Mrs Delafontaine turned to Melton, her expression unreadable. "That's all, thank you, My Lord."
"No cross-examination," said Grey, with a small, smug smile.
"Mrs Delafontaine," said Melton. "Am I to understand that your entire alternative perpetrator defence rests on scurrilous rumour and a few co-incidences? That, Mrs Delafontaine, is not a properly conducted defence. As a man of the law, I cannot support your continuing this course."
Mrs Delafontaine shrugged. "It's the truth, My Lord," she said quietly.
"Do you have other witnesses?" sighed Melton.
"Only character witnesses, My Lord. To whom you could not possibly object."
"Very well. Let's have 'em."
Mrs Taylor went first. Glowing with enthusiasm, she talked volubly about Mrs Delafontaine's great work with her Girl Guides. Mrs Delafontaine had a very decent character. She was a good influence on the girls. They looked up to her.
"Have you ever known me lie?"
"Or interest myself in scurrilous rumours?"
"No, I've never known anyone less interested in silly gossip."
The jury liked Mrs Taylor. Harding could tell from their nods and smiles. She oozed respectability and morality. She ran a Guide troop. Upstanding, public-minded citizens love Guides. She shone with sincerity. Harding's spirits rose slightly.
Next, Mrs Harris. She made a similarly favourable impression. Good. Mrs Delafontaine could at least finish strong. She emphasised Mrs Delafontaine's honesty, her essential decency, her complete uninterest in rumour-mongering and gossip.
There was an hour's break for lunch. Harding met Mrs Taylor, Mrs Harris and Hapscle in the front lobby. Mrs Harris was devouring a pastry with the mechanical desperation of the comfort eater. Mrs Taylor nibbled at a sausage roll. Harding couldn't eat at all. There was a lump in his throat. The jury had heard all the evidence. Closing speeches, then verdict. Would it all be over this evening, for better or for worse? Or would the jury still be deliberating tomorrow? And wouldn't that just make the inevitable guilty verdict more painful? He shook himself. Nothing is inevitable. First law of practising law. Nothing in inevitable. He had to keep believing that, because otherwise he'd go mad.
Hapscle, not even trying to eat, was staring out of the window. His face was expressionless, but his eyes were wells of grief, rage and indignation.
Court sat again at half past one. Grey rose for the prosecution closing speech.
"Lady and gentlemen of the jury. Thank you for your time. You have heard the evidence, and the prosecution respectfully invites you to return a guilty verdict. Mrs Delafontaine freely admits to receiving a photograph providing evidence that her husband was having an affair with Miss Florence Webb. That provides a strong motive. Three servants of good character saw Mrs Delafontaine entering and leaving Caerlarvel before and after the murder, a fact which Mrs Delafontaine herself does not dispute. Delafontaine was killed just after Mrs Delafontaine killed Miss Webb, and in the same way. Mrs Delafontaine's fingerprints were the only ones found on the murder weapon, which was still sticking out of her husband's body. Clearly, in a fit of jealous rage, Mrs Delafontaine killed her husband. Thank you for your time, the Crown rests its case."
Mrs Delafontaine rose. "Lady and gentlemen of the jury. Thank you for your time and attention. As you are, of course, aware, the Crown must prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt. I don't believe that it can, for I give you my word of honour that I did not kill Edward. It's quite possible to kill someone without leaving fingerprints, simply by wearing gloves. I put it to you that General-"
"No, you do not!" said Melton very firmly. "An alternative perpetrator defence must be based on more solid evidence than rumour, co-incidence and speculation. You must have some evidence to put before the Court."
Mrs Delafontaine smiled sweetly, showing not a flicker of irritation. "Very well, My Lord. In that case, lady and gentlemen, I simply repeat that the Crown must prove its case beyond reasonable doubt. I'm very grateful for the consideration you've put into this case." She smiled at Melton. "You too, My Lord."
Melton blushed and his scowl softened a little. He rose for the summing up, which followed the same formula every time.
"Gentlemen of the jury, I will summarise the evidence you have heard. Now, you are the judges of fact in this case, which means that you must reach a decision, based on the evidence, for yourselves. If I don't mention something that you consider important, of course you must consider it when you retire to consider your verdict. If I emphasise something you don't think is important, you mustn't emphasise it when you retire. If I express, or seem to express, any opinion about any evidence which you disagree with, you must ignore it. This is important, because you must reach your own verdict, based on the evidence."
The jury smiled and nodded. This all seemed very reasonable.
"First, the prosecution's evidence. Mr Grey spoke for the prosecution. P.C. White gave evidence. He took the telephone call from Mr Rimmon reporting the double murder. No cross-examination. Miss Doyle gave evidence. She saw Mrs Delafontaine crossing the front hall at Caerlarvel at quarter to midnight, carrying her pistol and a pair of shoes. Mrs Delafontaine asked her where Miss Florence Webb was. The next morning at five, she saw Delafontaine's body in the library. Cross-examination: Mrs Delafontaine did not ask her the whereabouts of her husband, only of Miss Webb. Mrs Delafontaine was not seen killing her husband."
Melton cleared his throat, turned his page and continued. "Mr Rimmon gave evidence. At quarter to midnight, he saw Mrs Delafontaine enter Caerlarvel by the front door, carrying her pistol and a pair of shoes. At four minutes past five on Sunday, he went with General Webb to lock up the library and found Miss Florence Webb's body. Cross-examination: Mr Rimmon did not see Mrs Delafontaine kill her husband.
"Miss Jones gave evidence. At midnight, she saw Mrs Delafontaine leaving Caerlarvel, carrying her pistol. Cross-examination: she didn't see Mrs Delafontaine kill her husband.
"Inspector Brown gave evidence." Melton hesitated and shuffled with his papers. "Description of scene of Miss Webb's murder…" He coughed awkwardly and hastily moved on. "Description of scene of Lieutenant Delafontaine's murder. His body was on the floor in front of the table in the middle of the library. He appeared to have fallen from his chair. There was some paperwork on the table he was going through. The apparent cause of death was stabbing from behind with the harpoon still sticking out of him. The door into the study was behind him but a long way to the right. The door into the corridor was behind him slightly to the right. Cross-examination: There are five doors into Caerlarvel: the front door into the main hall, a side door on the west side of the house, a back door which takes to the passage outside the kitchen, a French window in the parlour and an outside stair-case leading straight into the General's bedroom. Apart from the outside staircase, there are four ways to the first floor: the main stair-case connecting the front hall to the first floor corridor, a staircase at each end of the corridor and a servant's staircase which goes from the passage near the kitchen to the corridor near the library. Caerlarvel is a very accessible house. The floor on the first floor is stone-paved, which does not creak, and the library floor is carpeted."
Melton turned over the next page in his notes. "Mr Johnson gave evidence. Leuitenant Delafontaine was killed by being stabbed through the heart from behind. Death instantaneous. Time of death, between a quarter to midnight and a quarter past midnight. Death caused by a long sharp implement, tapering to a point, probably the harpoon sticking out of the body when the police examined it.
The jury examined Exhibit A—said harpoon—and Mr Johnson agreed that Exhibit A had been in Lieutenant Delafontaine's body when he examined it. No cross-examination, merely a remark that it's possible for two people to kill with the same weapon."
Melton sipped his water and continued. "Detective Inspector Philip Henries gave evidence. Fingerprints found on the murder weapon were checked against the prints of everyone in the house and didn't match. They were checked against Mrs Delafontaine's and matched. Cross-examination: it's possible to touch an object without leaving fingerprints, for example, by wearing gloves. Close of prosecution case."
Melton sighed. "The defence case. Mrs Delafontaine conducted her own defence. She also gave evidence. Mrs Delafontaine claims to have left Caerlarvel immediately after…er… killing Miss Webb." He cleared his throat and moved on. "She did not see or kill her husband. Cross-examination: continued denial."
Melton cleared his throat, drank some more water and continued slowly. "The defence here produced a case which I see no legal base for. Mrs Delafontaine built up a dubious case of alternative perpetrator based on rumour and co-incidence. Nearly all subsequent examination was a succession of prejudicial and irrelevant questions. Lord Hapscle admits that he and Leuitenant Delafontaine were being considered for the same promotion. Mrs Delafontaine suggested to General Webb that the photograph was forged, General Webb denies this. Close of defence case."
Harding nearly banged his head against the desk. Melton wasn't even mentioning half the defence case!
Melton laid down his notes and gave his standard instructions to the jury. "You will now retire to consider your verdict. You must reach this verdict based on the evidence. I'm sure that you all know that the burden of proof is on the prosecution. To return a guilty verdict, you must be satisfied of Mrs Anne Delafontaine's guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
"Your verdict must be unanimous. You are under no pressure of time. I'm aware that it's after half past two. If you can't reach a verdict by five, you'll return tomorrow. After tomorrow, we'll have to see, but my point is you mustn't feel under pressure for time, because you're not. Your job is to reach the right verdict. As I mentioned this morning, you must not disclose, ever, what happens in the jury-room. That is contempt of court. If anyone, for example, from the press, asks you about it, you must refuse to answer and report that person. Needless to say, you must not base your verdict on bribery, threats or any form of coercion. Any attempt to do so must be reported immediately.
"If you need clarification on any point, please write me a note. For example, you can have transcripts read back to you. It's important to ask about any issues which could affect your verdict." Melton smiled politely at the jury, who smiled politely back. "Andrews, take the jury out, please."
That was the end. Harding glanced at Mrs Delafontaine, drained and exhausted. They had done all they could. She had fought to the wire and he was proud of her. Now there was nothing to do but wait. Harding looked at her, so small and pale in the dock and his heart broke for her. The prosecution's case, especially summed up in Melton's cold, firm prose, had never looked more damning. Mrs Delafontaine hadn't a hope. Harding shook himself, tried to tell himself that there was always hope. Don't despair now. But it was so easy to despair now, now that there was nothing practical to do, nothing but sit and wait. If they could only convince one juror… one… It only takes one to hang. But then what? A re-trial? But what more could he hope for? Please, Lord. One. Just one… He believed in Mrs Delafontaine's innocence. Couldn't a juror have reasonable doubt? But he had Jimmy Smith, and maybe the jurors didn't.
Andrews jolted Harding out of his void of despair. "Can all persons connected with R. vs Delafontaine please make their way to Court Number One as we have verdict. We have verdict."
Harding glanced at the clock. What had felt like hours of agony had only been five minutes. His heart sank from his throat to his feet and the sweat on his neck turned cold. Five minutes! They hadn't even thought about it! They hadn't even considered the evidence! Damn those prejudiced, blind…!
"Court rise!" called Harding, his voice sounding thin and wavering. Melton strode in and took his seat to hear the verdict.
Mrs Delafontaine stood up, looking younger and thinner and more fragile than ever. The jury entered, tense but expressionless. If Harding weren't bound to his stenograph, he would have curled up on the floor and died of despair.
"Have you agreed on your verdict?" he heard himself say.
The foreman, a very respectable-looking middle-aged gentleman in a tweed suit, replied "yes, sir?".
"And what…?" His voice failed. He cleared his throat and moistened his lips. "What…?" The question died on his lips.
Melton, with a heavy sigh, took over. "What is your verdict?"
The foreman's lips moved and sound came out, but it made no sense.
"What?" choked Melton.
"Not guilty," repeated the foreman.
The whole world went black. Harding recovered from his swoon before he could crash to the floor, to see Mrs Delafontaine half-fainted on her feet, clutching the front of the dock until her knuckles were white to stay upright.
Then cacophony broke from the galleries. They were clapping. Actually clapping, like at the theatre. Never in his whole career had Harding seen such a thing. Neither Melton's ever-shriller cries of "Order! Order!" nor Andrews' attempts at physical ejection could restore order for several minutes.
"Thank for your time, ladies and gentlemen," choked Mrs Delafontaine, as soon as she could make herself heard. There were tears sparkling in her eyes, but she kept a grip on herself though Harding could see her shaking. God knew how she was holding herself together. Harding didn't think he'd ever forget her face in that moment.
Grey was on his feet. "My Lord! Are you go to allow this?"
"Sit down, Grey!" Melton was scarlet with rage, but he wasn't, even at this moment of chaos, going to tolerate Grey shouting in his court-room. He had no choice but to allow it and he knew it. But he wouldn't give up without a fight. There was, after all, the faint chance that the jury might not know it. He wasn't going to have his career as a highly respected and respectable criminal judge over-turned by this lunatic murder trial so easily. He turned to the jury.
"Lady and gentlemen of the jury, may I remind you that you swore an oath to judge the case according to the evidence?"
"So we did!" said the fore-man, tilting his chin up, defiantly.
"In light of that, I ask you to reconsider-"
The uproar on the gallery began again, angry this time.
"You can't." It was the lady juror. "You can't!"
"Order in the court!" shouted Melton. "You do not interrupt me in my own court!"
"It isn't your court!" shouted someone on the balcony. "It's His Majesty's court!"
"And you certainly," ignoring the interruption. "Address me as My Lord."
"You ain't," muttered a young juror on the end.
"I'll try you for contempt of court," snapped Melton, but the spell was long broken. The hypnotism of the robe and wig had vanished with that first spluttered "what?". No one cared about contempt of court any more.
Melton returned his attention to the foreman. "You swore an oath to try this case according to the evidence," he said sternly.
"What evidence?" replied the foreman. "We didn't see any evidence. Just him insulting people." He jabbed a finger at Grey, whose mouth was opening and closing like a fish's. "And whenever the prisoner tried to get a word in edgeways, everyone shutting her up. We didn't get to see any evidence."
"I'm going to arrest you all for contempt of court," snapped Melton.
"In front of all these people?" It was the elderly juror with the top hat. "Just you try." And he vaulted over the front of the jury box and began striding across the well of the court to the exit.
"Andrews!" yelled Melton, but Andrews did nothing.
The other jurors began to follow the lead.
Melton turned to Harding and muttered. "Do you think I could get a re-trial?"
Harding's blood froze. For a moment the black dots swam before his eyes and he almost fainted again. "No," he said, his nerves torn to shreds. Just when he had dared relax, he had to pull the biggest bluff of his career yet. He tried to arrange his features into a man-to-man grin which he felt was in fact a hideous grimace. "The press'll have a field day if they think you ordered a re-trial just because you didn't like the verdict. Besides." Wry grin time. "There's no guarantee a re-run'll go any better."
"True," murmured Melton. "LIPs are loonies. Least said, soonest mended, eh?"
"Yes," agreed Harding firmly.
Melton turned back to the court, adjusted his wig and tried to salvage what remained of his dignity and career. He addressed the retreating jury sternly. "You are all dismissed from jury service for the rest of your lives. None of you are fit to serve on a jury and I will personally see to it that you never do again."
The jurors ignored him.
He turned to Mrs Delafontaine. "What are you still doing here?"
"Waiting for the Webb sentencing." Quietly.
And with that Harding's bubbling elation turned to ice. He had, for a few glorious moments, forgotten about that and drunk sweet victory to the dregs. Now he jolted back down to Earth.
Melton seemed to have forgotten, too. He blinked a couple of times. "Oh, yes, right." He cleared his throat. "Anne Delafontaine. You are found guilty of the murder of Florence Webb and sentencing will now take place." He turned to Grey. "Does the Crown have a submission on the appropriate sentence?"
"Yes, My Lord. Murder usually carries a sentence of death, occasionally commuted to penal servitude."
"Does the defence have anything to say?"
"No, My Lord. She never did me any wrong."
Harding wanted to scream to her to beg, to point the finger at General Webb, to throw off the responsibility. But he knew that wasn't her way. She had killed Florence Webb for a wrong Miss Webb had never done. She had no remaining justification. And she was going to take the punishment.
"Very well." Melton donned his black cap.
A gasp ran round the gallery. Outraged muttering. A few people sobbed into their handkerchiefs. The journalists were scribbling so fast their hands were a blur.
Melton ignored all this. The prisoner was guilty. The law would take its course. "Mrs Anne Delafontaine, you have committed the brutal, cold-blooded, clearly pre-meditated murder of Miss Florence Webb, a lady who did you, as you say, no wrong. You have pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity, and you have said you are sorry, but the fact remains that you deliberately sought her out and intentionally murdered her in order to settle a private revenge, which you now say was unjustified. Frankly, regardless of what Miss Webb did or did not do, your actions were violent, depraved and un-Christian. We do not settle our love-lives with homicide in this country. Orphaned at an early age, you were taken in and raised by decent, law-abiding country people who trained you as a servant. You then found decent work at a stud farm, then a race-track, before marrying into a highly respected family in society and volunteering with Girl Guides. In short, you have been set nothing but good examples, been cared for by nothing but decent people, and thrown it all away."
He cleared his throat. Dead hush fell in the galleries. Even the people crying smothered their sobs for a few moments, to hear every word.
"Anne Delafontaine, the sentence of this court is that you will be taken from here to the place whence you came, and there be kept in close confinement until Tuesday the twelfth, and upon that day that you be taken to the place of execution and there hanged by the neck until you are dead. May God have mercy upon your soul."
Harding could barely hold back the tears. He had known—they had all known, all along—what the sentence would be, but the words were still terrible to hear. Was it all for nothing? All this work, what good was it?
Mrs Delafontaine heard the sentence in silence, her face impassive. She had expected this.
Melton removed his black cap and sat back in his chair, face stony.
Mrs Delafontaine raised her head. "Very well, My Lord," she said quietly. "It's no more than I deserve."
Melton gave no sign of having heard.
The guards slipped the handcuffs on Mrs Delafontaine's wrists and led her away. She didn't look up at the public, or at her three friends on the front row of the gallery, but she met Harding's eye and smiled once. He couldn't manage a smile back.
Then pandemonium broke lose in the gallery. There were cries of "shame", of "scandal", protestations that the good Lord in His mercy should not allow such a thing, and that that wicked man should be made to pay for his crime.
Harding fled the court. He needed air, and quiet, and a stiff drink.
Mrs Delafontaine's three friends were waiting in the foyer. Mrs Harris was dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief, but when Harding arrived all three beamed at him and Mrs Harris flung her arms round his neck.
"Thank you," she choked.
Mrs Taylor and Hapscle were wringing his hands, eyes misty.
"Thank you," said Mrs Taylor. "We knew we could rely on you."
"Thank you. We're very, very grateful for everything you've done."
"I don't know what I have done," Harding almost wailed. "It hasn't done any good."
"Justice," said Mrs Taylor, quietly. "That's what you've done."
"Is it? He's got away with it."
"No, he hasn't," said Hapscle, with a gleam in his eye that Harding hoped never to see directed at him.
"But she got off," said Mrs Taylor. "She got off."
"I'm so tired," he said quietly, before he could remember his manners, and concentrate on the people in a much worse plight than he was right now. He was tired, the tension of the trial had kept him awake, running on adrenaline for days and now he just wanted to go to bed and sleep for a hundred years.
She got off. He held that thought in his mind. She got off. The five of them had got her off. He manged a small, weary smile.
Driscoll appeared, still bandaged. "Hapscle?"
"I apologise. It seems I was very, very wrong."
Hapscle smiled tiredly. "A'right." He gripped Driscoll's arm with the unostentatious squeeze which is British for "please, please, take me somewhere private so I can cry for a few hours".
Harding went back to his rooms and slept like the dead. When he awoke it was seven in the evening and there was a telegram on the mat.
Mrs Delafontaine wanted to see him.
Harding didn't bother to comb or change his clothes, which he'd now been wearing for two days. He felt sick, he really didn't want to go back to that horrible place under the Bailey, but he knew he couldn't refuse. Mrs Delafontaine was going to die and she'd asked for him.
When he arrived at Mrs Delafontaine's cell, the three others were already there. Mrs Delafontaine was dictating to Mrs Taylor a long list of goodbye messages for all the girls.
"Tell Claire Simmons to keep it up with the swimming. I'm so proud of her doing her five hundred yards."
"I certainly will—oh, Mr Harding!"
"Mr Harding?" Mrs Delafontaine flung herself at him. "Thank you so much. I couldn't have done it without you."
"You're very welcome. I only wish I could have done more."
"What more could you have done?"
Harding looked around the bleak little condemned cell. "I could have… got you off. Everything. Got you out of here… somehow."
Mrs Delafontaine smiled slightly and shook her head. "No. You couldn't have done that. Nobody could. You do the crime, you take the punishment."
Mrs Delafontaine shrugged. "It's not about what he did. It's about what I did. And what she… didn't…" She paused and looked away at something only she could see. "I'm glad Edward really loved me," she said quietly. "But sometimes I think it would be easier if I had never found out that photograph was fake. Then I could go to the Lord with a clean conscience." She looked at Harding quickly. "Oh, no! I didn't mean it like that! I didn't! I'm very grateful for everything you did for me and all the work you put in!"
"I know you are." Harding smiled. "I know what you mean."
Mrs Delafontaine smiled at him, but her eyes were wet with tears.
"God," he burst out under his breath, before he could stop himself. "Life's a bitch, ain't it?"
Mrs Delafontaine laughed bleakly. "You marry a bitch and then you die." She shrugged. "Well, two out of three."
Harding remembered her brave, shaky smile for the rest of his life.
The next week's papers were full of Mrs Delafontaine's Last Statement. The Times had tried for an exclusive, but was too late.
"Final statement to the public,
Above all, I wish to apologise for killing Miss Florence Webb, who was a good soul who never did any wrong. I know it can't do any good to be sorry now, but I am.
I wish to thank everyone (you know who you are) who always knew me innocent of killing Edward and worked so hard to get me acquitted. I also with to thank the jury at my trial, who deliberated conscientiously and gave a true verdict.
I wish to thank everyone at Holloway who has been so kind and looked after me so well.
I accept the judgement or mercy of God, as He sees fit."
Mrs Anne Delafontaine was hanged the next Tuesday. A little crowd gathered to lay flowers outside Holloway as the bell tolled.
Three weeks later, General Webb was found hanged from a rafter in Caerlarvel. Hapscle and Mrs Harris were charged with his murder, self-represented pleading justification and were acquitted in what was widely felt to be a perverse verdict.
Mr William Delafontaine—as he became—had a dazzling army career and was much decorated before retiring to Cornwall to breed terriers.
Mrs Linn Harris had five children and her Tom eventually came home from Daisy and the seven seas and set up a Cornish pasty business.
Mrs Sarah Taylor remained devoted to her dairy and her Girl Guides for the next thirty years, before dying of old age, a respected member of the community.
"Harding!" yelled Thomson. "Where the Hell are the Whitherton briefs?"
"Try under the Shooting Times, Mr Thomson."