“The public and the magistrate had hung breathless upon her words. There was nothing but sympathy felt for this handsome woman, who throughout had been more sinned against than sinning, and whose gravest fault seems to have been a total lack of intelligence in dealing with her own life. But I can assure you of one thing, that in no case within my recollection was there ever such a sensation in a court as when the magistrate, after a few minutes’ silence, said gently to Mrs. Morton:
“’And now, Mrs. Morton, will you kindly look at the prisoner, and tell me if in him you recognize your former husband?’
“And she, without even turning to look at the accused, said quietly:
“’Oh no! your Honour! of course that man is not the Comte de la Tremouille.’”
“I can assure you that the situation was quite dramatic,” continued the man in the corner, whilst his funny, claw-like hands took up a bit of string with renewed feverishness.
“In answer to further questions from the magistrate, she declared that she had never seen the accused; he might have been the go-between, however, that she could not say. The letters she received were all typewritten, but signed ‘Armand de la Tremouille,’ and certainly the signature was identical with that on the letters she used to receive from him years ago, all of which she had kept.
“‘And did it never strike you,’ asked the magistrate with a smile, ‘that the letters you received might be forgeries?’
“‘How could they be?’ she replied decisively; no one knew of my marriage to the Comte de la Tremouille, no one in England certainly. And, besides, if some one did know the Comte intimately enough to forge his handwriting and to blackmail me, why should that some one have waited all these years? I have been married seven years, your Honour.’
“That was true enough, and there the matter rested as far as she was concerned. But the identity of Mr. Francis Morton’s assailant had to be finally established, of course, before the prisoner was committed for trial. Dr. Mellish promised that Mr. Morton would be allowed to come to court for half an hour and identify the accused on the following day, and the case was adjourned until then. The accused was led away between two constables, bail being refused, and Brighton had perforce to moderate its impatience until the Wednesday.
“On that day the court was crowded to overflowing; actors, playwrights, literary men of all sorts had fought for admission to study for themselves the various phases and faces in connection with the case. Mrs. Morton was not present when the prisoner, quiet and self-possessed, was brought in and placed in the dock. His solicitor was with him, and a sensational defence was expected.
“Presently there was a stir in the court, and that certain sound, half rustle, half sigh, which preludes an expected palpitating event. Mr. Morton, pale, thin, wearing yet in his hollow eyes the stamp of those five days of suffering, walked into court leaning on the arm of his doctor—Mrs. Morton was not with him.