“Really—really, Captain Vyell!” hemm’d the Chief Magistrate. “Passing over your derogatory language, I am at a loss to understand—”
“Are you? Yet it is very simple. Since you reject my plea for this poor creature, I desire to share her punishment.”
“Let him,” snapped the mouth of Mr. Trask again, opening and shutting like a trap.
“You at any rate, sir, have sense,” the Collector felicitated him and turned to the Chief Magistrate. “And you, sir, if you will oblige me, may rest assured that I shall bear the magistracy of Port Nassau no grudge whatever.”
In the end they came to a compromise. That Dame Justice should be hustled in this fashion—taken by the shoulders, so to speak, forced to catch up her robe and skip—offended the Chief Magistrate’s sense of propriety. It was unseemly in the last degree, he protested. Nevertheless it appeared certain that Captain Vyell had a right to be tried and punished; and the Clerk’s threat to set down the hearing for an adjourned sessions was promptly countered by the culprit’s producing His Majesty’s Commission, which enjoined upon all and sundry “to observe the welfare of my faithful subject, Oliver John Dinham de Courcy Vyell, now travelling on the business of this my Realm, and to further that business with all zeal and expedition as required by him”—a command which might be all the more strictly construed for being loosely worded. To be sure the Court might by dilatory process linger out the hearing of the Weights and Measures cases—one of which was being scandalously interrupted at this moment—or it might adjourn for dinner and reassemble in the afternoon, by which time the sands of Ruth Josselin’s five hours’ ignominy would be running out. But here Mr. Somershall had to be reckoned with. Mr. Somershall not only made it a practice to sit long at dinner and sleep after it; he invariably lost his temper if the dinner-hour were delayed; and, being deaf as well as honest, he was capable of blurting out his mind in a fashion to confound either of these disingenuous courses. As for Mr. Wapshott, the wording of the Commission had frightened him, and he wished himself at home.