All through the trial she sat in utter immobility, sphinx-like, unapproachable, yet listening with tense attention to all that passed. Field’s handling of the case was a marvel of legal ingenuity. There were many who were attracted to the trial by that alone. He had made his mark, and whatever he said carried weight. When he came at last to make his speech for the defence, men and women listened with bated breath. It was one of the greatest speeches that the Criminal Court had ever heard.
He flung into it the whole weight of his personality. He grappled like a giant with the rooted obstacles that strewed his path, flinging them hither and thither by sheer force of will. His scorching eloquence blasted every opposing power, consumed every tangle of adverse evidence. It was as if he fought a pitched battle for himself alone. He wrestled for the mastery rather than appealed for sympathy.
And he won his cause. His scathing attacks, his magnetism, his ruthless insistence left an indelible mark upon the minds of the jury—such a mark as no subsequent comments from the judge could efface or even moderate. The verdict returned was unanimous in spite of a by no means favourable summing-up. The prisoner was Not Guilty.
At the pronouncement of the verdict there went up a shout of applause such as that Court had seldom heard. The prisoner, rather white but still affecting sublime self-assurance, accepted it with a smile as a tribute to himself. But it was not really directed towards him. It was for the man who had defended him, the man who sat at the table below the dock and turned over a sheaf of papers with a faint, cynical smile at the corners of his thin lips. This man, they said, had done the impossible. He had dragged the prisoner out of his morass by sheer titanic effort. Obviously Percival Field had believed firmly in the innocence of the man he had defended, or he had not thus triumphantly vindicated him.
The crowd, staring at him, wondered how the victory affected him. It had certainly enhanced his reputation. It had drawn from him such a display of genius as had amazed even his colleagues. Did he feel elated at all over his success? Was he spent by that stupendous effort? No one knew?
Now that it was over, he looked utterly indifferent. He had fought and conquered, but it seemed already as if his attention were turning elsewhere.
The crowd began to stream out. The day was hot and the crush had been very great. On one of the benches occupied by the public a woman had fainted. They carried her out into the corridor and there gradually she revived. A little later she went home alone in a taxi with her veil closely drawn down over her face.
The season was drawing to a close when the announcement of Lady Violet Calcott’s engagement to Percival Field took the world by storm.