From the hour of his fall no strong drink passed his lips. His was an almost desperate case, but he fought with two strong allies. It was as though the old church, rallying under his eyes for a new lease of life, put new blood into him, repaying his love. Also he had Dick’s letters.
“Upon my word,” said Sir Harry to his nephew, “I’ve a mind to put Flood into the living again when this business is over and you tire of your whim. I suppose there’s nothing to prevent it?”
There was nothing to prevent it; but as a reward it lay outside Parson Jack’s speculation, perhaps beyond his desire. His reward came to him on the afternoon when, having mounted a ladder beside the new east window, he looked over his shoulder and saw Parson Kendall entering the churchyard by the lych-gate, and ushering in a youngster—a mere boy still, but splendid in the uniform of a freshly blown naval cadet.
Parson Jack can scarcely be said to have risen to the occasion. “Hullo, Dick!” he said, descending the ladder and holding out his hand.
But the Rector, standing aside, made a better speech; though this, too, was short enough.
“God fulfils Himself in many ways,” said the Rector to himself.
“Yes,” said the Judge, “I ought by this time to know something of Cornish juries. They acquit oftener than other juries, to be sure; and the general notion is that they incline more towards mercy. Privately, I believe that mercy has very little to do with it.”
“Stupidity,” said the High Sheriff sententiously, and sipped his wine. His own obtuseness on the Bench was notorious, and had kept adding for thirty years to the Duchy’s stock of harmless merriment.
“Nothing of the sort,” snapped his lordship. “You can convict a man, I presume, as stupidly as you can acquit him. No: with other juries a crime is a crime, and a misdemeanour is a misdemeanour. You tell them so and they accept it. But with Cornishmen you have first to explain that the alleged offence is illegal; next, you must satisfy them that it ought to be illegal; and then, if you choose, you can proceed to prove that the prisoner committed it. They will finally discharge him on the ground that he never had the advantage of such a clear exposition of the law as they have just enjoyed.”
“Well, but isn’t that stupidity?” persisted the High Sheriff.
The Judge turned impatiently and addressed a grey-headed man on his left. “Did I ever tell you, Mr.—, how I once enjoyed the hospitality of a Cornish village, through the simple accident of being mistaken for a burglar?”
The grey-headed man—an eminent Q.C. and leader of the Western Circuit— dropped an olive into his glass of sherry. He had been dozing. Two or three guests and members of the Junior Bar drew their chairs closer.