‘Mr. Selwyn,’ she said, speaking with the same rapidity of phrasing that had both held and exasperated him before, ’we are all waiting for the verdict of the Man from America.’
‘Over there,’ he smiled, ’it is customary to take evidence before giving a verdict.’
‘Good,’ boomed the resolutionist; ‘very good!’
‘Then,’ said Lady Durwent, ‘we seven shall constitute a jury.’
‘Order!’ Johnston Smyth rose to his feet and hammered the table with a bottle. ’Oyez, oyez, you hereby swear that you shall well and truly try’——
‘Can’t,’ said Norton Pyford, pulling himself up; ‘I’m prejudiced.’
‘For or against?’
‘Against the culprit.’
‘My discordant friend,’ said Smyth, producing a second bottle from an unsuspected source and making it disappear mysteriously, ’means that he is prejudiced against England. Am I right, sir?’
‘Not exactly,’ drawled the composer. ’I don’t mind England—but I think the English are awful.’
‘That is a nice point,’ said Lady Durwent.
‘Ah,’ broke in Madame Carlotti, ’but, much as I detest the English, I hate England more. Nom de Dieu! I—a daughter of the Mediterranean, where the sun ees so rarely a stranger, and the sky and the water it ees always blue. In Italy one lives because she ees alive—it ees sufficient. Here it ees always gray, gray—always g-r-ray. When the sun comes—sacramento! he sees his mistake and goes queek away. Ah, Signor Selwyn, it ees desolant that I am compelled to live here.’
A roar of unfeeling laughter greeting her familiar plaint, Madame Carlotti took a hitch in her gown and reimprisoned some of her person which had escaped from custody.
‘Then,’ said Johnston Smyth, ’if we are all of a mind, there is no need to have a trial. You have all seen the accusation in Mr. Selwyn’s eye, you have considered the unbiassed evidence of the lovely Carlotti’——
‘But jurors can’t give evidence,’ muttered Mr. Dunckley.
‘My dear sir, I know she can’t, but she did,’ said Smyth triumphantly. ’Oyez, oyez—all in favour’——
‘But,’ interrupted the American, ’are we not to hear any one for the defence?’
‘No,’ said Smyth, who was thoroughly happy as a self-constituted master of ceremonies. ‘No one would accept the brief.’
‘Then,’ said Selwyn, ’I apply for the post of counsel for the defence, for in the limited time I have been in your country I have seen much that appeals to me.’
‘Of course, it is a well-known fact,’ said Dunckley sententiously, ‘that American humour relies on exaggeration.’
‘No, no,’ said Johnston Smyth, hushing the voices with a pianissimo movement of his hands, ’it is not humour on Mr. Selwyn’s part, but gratitude. In return for Christopher Columbus discovering America, this gentleman is going to repay the debt of the New World to the Old by discovering England.’