“When I crept into that infernal court, that infernal torture chamber, they were just finishing the case of the child. This solicitor chap—chap with a humped back and a head as big as a house—was just finishing fawning round a doctor man in the box, putting it up to him that there was nothing to suggest deliberate suffocation of the baby. Oxalic acid poisoning—was it not the case that the girl would have died in great agony? Writhed on the bed? Might easily have overlaid the child? The doctor had seen the position in which she was found lying in regard to the child—would he not tell the jury that she almost certainly rolled on to the child while it slept—that sort of rather painful stuff. Doctor chap rather jibbed a bit at being rushed, but humpback kept him to it devilish cleverly and the verdict was as good as given. The doc. was just going out of the box when Humpo called him back. ’One moment more, Doctor, if you please. Can you tell me, if you please, approximately the age of the child—approximately, but as near as you possibly can, Doctor?’
“The doctor said about five months—four to five months.
“‘Five months,’ says Humpo, mouthing it. ‘Five months.’ He turned deliberately round and looked directly at Sabre, sitting sort of huddled up on the front bench. ’Five months. We may take it, then, the child was born in December last. In December last.’ Still with his back to the witness and staring at Sabre, you understand, and the jury all staring with him and people standing up in the court to see what the devil he was looking at. ‘We may take that, may we, Doctor?’ He was watching Sabre with a sort of half smile. The doctor said he might take it. The chap snapped up his face with a jerk and turned round. ’Thank you, Doctor. That will do.’ And he sat down. If ever I saw a chap playing a fish and suddenly strike and hook it, I saw it then, when he smiled towards Sabre and then snapped up his face and plumped down. And the jury saw it. He’d got ’em fixed from that moment. Fixed. Oh, he was clever—clever, my word!
“That ended that. The coroner rumbled out a bit of a summary, practically told the jury what to say, reminded them, if they had any lingering doubts, that the quality of mercy was not strained—him showing before the morning was out that he knew about as much about mercy as I know about Arabic—and the jury without leaving the box brought in that the child had died of suffocation due to misadventure.
“The court drew a long breath; you could hear it. Everybody settled himself down nice and comfortably. The curtain-raiser was over, and very nice too; now for the drama.
“They got it.”